Lancers' Despatch 24
Website of the Royal New South Wales Lancers Lancer Barracks and Museum
Photos and text by the editor unless otherwise noted.
A heartfelt thank you to all who contributed to the continued wellbeing of the Regiment, the Museum and Association over the past year. We thank the local politicians government and opposition who stood up for Band funding even if this was not concluded to our advantage, the members of the Regiment who continue to serve in trying times where great demands are made, yet little resources provided, and the volunteers who keep our Association and Museum going.
The Band funding withdrawal issue reported in the August 2012 issue of Lancers' Despatch concluded with The Hon Philip Ruddock MP's private members motion being passed by Parliament CLICK HERE to view the note Mr Ruddock sent us. The Chief of Army, however, sadly has not to date, acceded to the wishes of the Parliament and restored funding. The Regimental Association has not been approached with details of how our support for the band is to work.
I also thank the contributors Major David Brown, Bert Castellari, David Craven, Sue Day, Alan Hitchell and Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lording who made this edition of Lancers’ Despatch possible.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lording - Commanding Officer
I am honoured to have been appointed to command 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers and delighted to be returning to the Regiment at a time when we will be challenged with the task of transitioning to a new role with a focus on providing protected mobility. In the course of the next three years the Regiment will see some significant change as Plan Beersheba takes effect and the Army fully adopts the organizational changes and alignment with the force generation cycle. We will also have an opportunity to commemorate the centenary of the First World War and the unit’s participation in the Gallipoli campaign.
It seems a long time since I first joined the Regiment as a young(ish) Second Lieutenant commissioned from University of New South Wales Regiment in 1990. In subsequent years I was fortunate to have served in a variety of postings in the Regiment from Troop Leader to Squadron Commander and eventually as the Second in Command. This long association with the Regiment has afforded me the opportunity to proudly profess myself a ‘Lancer’ who is proud of our history and traditions. While the Regiment has undergone some significant changes during this period, I am pleased to see that there remains the same underlying commitment to Reserve service, a ‘civilian soldier’ ethos, which has been the hallmark of the Regiment dating to back to the creation of the Sydney Light Horse in 1885.
The Regiment will see a number of changes in key personnel appointments in 2013. Lieutenant Colonel Chris Monsour will be posted as the SO1 Armour at 1 Div HQ and I would like to extend thanks on behalf of the Regiment and the Association for his hard work and stewardship of the Regiment over the last three years. He had custody of the Regiment at a time when there were significant difficulties following the conversion to Light Cavalry and a certain amount of antipathy towards this capability. His command of the Battle Group at 5 Brigade’s combined arms training activity in 2010 did much to demonstrate the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability that the unit could produce as well as the effective operation of the headquarters.
Warrant Officer Class One Craig Cook will also be leaving the Regiment to take up a posting as RSM at 2 Cavalry Regiment. Although he was only with the Regiment for 12 months, WO1 Cook made a valuable contribution and provide excellent leadership and guidance for all members of the unit. In addition to his relocation on posting, WO1 Cook will also be preparing for an overseas operational deployment in early 2013. I am pleased to advise that he will be replaced by WO1 Tony Lynch who has been promoted following a posting at the School of Armour where he was the Wing Sergeant Major in Tactics.
The Adjutant, Captain Jake Penley, is being posted to a position in Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy. Captain Nick Hornbuckle, who has just completed a posting as second in command of Combat Support Squadron in 1 Armoured Regiment, will be posted in from mid January. No doubt this ‘tankie’ will have the opportunity to learn more about the original Armoured Regiment and to acquaint himself with the units accomplishments during the Second World War.
The Regiment will face some significant challenges in 2013. Plan Beersheba was released with much public fanfare in late 2011 and is Army’s next step in the Adaptive Army Campaign. It forms part of the planning towards the Army Objective Force 2030 which will no doubt be subject of further change following the release of the next Defence White Paper in 2013. At this stage, there is a great deal of work being done across Army to align the Regular Army structure to standardise the Multi-role Manoeuvre Brigades within the three year Force Generation Cycle, including the trial of new Armoured Cavalry Regiments.
At the same time, a great deal of work has been commenced in relation to the capabilities to be generated by the paired Reserve Brigades, including the provision of Protected Mobility Lift. The change in role from Light Cavalry to Protected Mobility Lift will require substantially more work to identify and implement organization structures, equipment entitlements a well as vehicle servicing and repair support. In addition, there will be requirements to review the current Light Cavalry trade stream which will need to be aligned with future RAAC changes and the current suite of PMV (Bushmaster) courses.
While the organisational planning and analysis continues, the Regiment must continue to train unit personnel within the exiting trade stream and deliver Light Cavalry capabilities to support directed Domestic Security and Defence Aid to Civil Community tasks while posturing to transition to Protected Mobility at the earliest opportunity. This will be constrained to some extent by the availability of resources including army reserve training salaries (ARTS), ammunition and access to Bushmaster vehicles. Nevertheless, a good start has been made with 17 members of the Regiment having completed PMV drivers courses run in conjunction with 12/16 Hunter River Lancers in October and November of 2012. A small number of personnel will be participating in PMV driver and crew command courses being run by Mounted Combat Wing in Puckapunyal in early 2013. This will place the Regiment in a sound position to generate the foundation capabilities for transition when vehicles are eventually allocated.
I am committed to ensuring that the Regiment will prosper in the challenging environment which we will encounter and will endeavour to provide training which is well planned, executed and demanding. It is my vision that 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers is a highly skilled, adaptive and operationally focused Regiment, ready to provide protected mobility lift capability to 5th Brigade and Army. In achieving this, I will be focusing on:
Professional Mastery – To encourage serving members to continually challenge themselves an strive to master all aspects of their military service.
Motivation – To be pro-active in all aspects of command, control and leadership through appropriate delegation of authority and promotion of junior leader development.
Values – To respect the history and traditions of the Regiment, embody the Army ethos of courage, initiative and teamwork. Foster an environment based on reliability, trust and understanding which promotes ‘mission command’.
I hope that these principles will resonate with all members of the Lancer Museum and Association and hope to build a closer engagement with our local community over the course of the next three years. I will actively encourage serving members to seek greater participation in the Association and look for opportunities to provide tangible support where this can be done.
Tenax in Fide (You can view Colonel Lording's biography on the Commanders' Page CLICK HERE)
Thank you and Welcome notes by the Editor, John Howells as Hon Secretary of the Royal New South Wales Lancers' Association
The Regimental Association thanks Colonel Monsour for the job he did as custodian during difficult times and wish him well.
The Regimental Association, welcomes Colonel Lording and look forward to helping out where possible during his time of stewardship.
The Regimental Association sincerely thanks Brigadier Bridie, and Honorary Colonels General Glenny and Colonel Long who have over the past couple of years worked feverishly in the background to ensure the Regiment remains on the order of battle. A tragedy averted.
Your Regimental Museum is the custodian of your Regiment’s past. It only exists due to a team of volunteers who work tirelessly on your behalf. Most give up every Sunday, and many give up their Thursdays as well. Great things are being achieved. Project ACE has proceeded to the point where the hull has been refurbished, the dual ancient Leyland engines can be started, and the "Heath Robinson" automatic gearbox designed in the 1930s almost fathomed. The Staghound restoration is all-but concluded. All Joe Tabone and his crew have to work out is how to get the electricals to work so that the engine will fire-up. Many Museums have the policy that an old vehicle should simply be gutted and painted, a hulk without life. Ours is that these relics of a bygone age of mechanisation should hum. When we get a Museum visitor who fought with Centurions in Korea or Vietnam and they are able to sit in the driver’s compartment and hear the 12 cylinder merlin engine come to life, the experience transcends time for them and all present. Something a prettily painted but dead shell can never do. What the Museum lacks is a member of the M113 family, we are working on it.
Ian Hawthorn, Ross Brown, Jack Best and the others working on the non-vehicle collection are also making progress. Our display cases have been found to be wanting. They are backed with Masonite, a product that exudes chemicals potentially damaging to exhibits and the lighting is inappropriate. Ian has secured a grant to cover new led lit buff steel and glass exhibition cases for the Boer War room as a first step in solving the problem. They will be installed mid 2013.
We have also received a Community Heritage grant to assist with the conservation of the King's Banner awarded in 1904, and the staff flag of Boer General Jacobus (known as Koos) de la Rey. Both items are key parts of our collection. We understand the King's Banner awarded for the Regiment's service in the Second Boer War is the only one left of some 18 presented to various Australian units. It is the only banner carried at the dedication of the site for the National Capital, Canberra in 1913, 100 years ago, that is still around. The Banner is in a parlous state needing urgent conservation. The de la Rey flag was part of a collection of items passed to the Museum by General Cox; it was captured near Klerksdorp (NW Province, South Africa) during the General's second tour of duty during the Boer War. It too is in a parlous state needing urgent conservation. Our problem is that the grant was for $3,500; the flag conservation quote is $11,000. If you have any spare cash; do not forget us.
Sadly our camellias have had to go. The beautiful bushes and the soil built up around them were a danger to the Museum building. The soil blocking ventilation ports, and the bushes encouraging white ants. A great effort by the Museum volunteer team on 20 January 2013 and they were gone.
It was a sunny, 30 degree afternoon in Canberra, perfect for the Beersheba Day Commemoration Service marking the 95th anniversary of the charge at Beersheba by the 4th and 12th Light Horse Regiments on the 31st of October,1917. It relaxed the formality a little without diminishing the solemnity of the occasion.
The Desert Mounted Corps Memorial, set back from the broad space of Anzac Parade, and sited among those untidy (as we know them) eucalyptus trees is the ideal place for this ceremony. It has the bush feel.
Just after 13:00 hrs the 7th Light Horse re-enactors appeared moving down the road - 16 mounted men in Great War uniforms, smartly turned out, riding in a military style but with the ease of bushmen. Leading them was the president of The Australian Light Horse Association, Phil Chalker. The column turned to approach the memorial welcomed by the strains of the City of Queanbeyan Pipes and Drums. Then, to the halt on the left, as I remember an old light horseman ordering it, they swung around into a line abreast and came to rest. The public - about 50 people - not huge but certainly the best we've had for years - loved it. In addition there was a group of 40 school children. Their attendance was through happenstance.
Bob Stenhouse had just pulled up in his car and saw the children and their teacher coming along the path. It was a school outing which was to include the War Memorial Museum. Bob invited them to stay for the ceremony and the teacher gladly accepted.
There were a few minutes of informal greeting and then Phil Chalker opened the proceedings. I don't know what Phil had originally intended but he immediately grasped the chance to talk to the kids. He directed his speech to them but clearly enough for everyone present to hear him. He told them the story of Beersheba, of its equal importance to Gallipoli, its significance at that stage of the war. He explained the difference between the cavalry and the light horse as mounted infantry and more. There was detail given in plain language. He pointed out that this was not a celebration but a commemoration. The kids followed up with questions which showed he had got through to them.
The wreath laying followed. Bob Stenhouse, John Palmer and Bert Castellari laid the first wreath on behalf of the Royal New South Wales Lancers’ Association members present, stood to attention and saluted. Then Adrienne and Bob Bradley, regular Beersheba Day attendants laid a wreath in memory of Lance Corporal Eric Fane de Salis,a forebear of Afrienne's, (his story was told in last year's report), then a wreath from The Australian Light Horse Association and finally a wreath which tells a story but not as much of it as we would like to have.
This wreath contained a card which showed a photo of two gravestone crosses. One carried the name Sgt LS Brooks, 1st Light Horse Regiment, and the other carried the name Trooper CW Radburn, also of the 1st Light Horse Regiment. Both died on 29 September 1918. Underneath in smaller type was the name Kim. I confess to a sloppy bit of reporting. I should have spoken to Kim immediately to find out more. I don't even know if the person who laid the wreath was Kim or acting on her/his behalf.
I responded too late to identify Kim but I shall follow this up and may yet make the deadline.
John Palmer recited the Ode and the ceremony ended. Much photo taking and intermingling and then the troop resumed its military presence and marched off again to the stirring tunes of the pipes and drums. Bob Shenstone, a piper himself of many years and as a member of the City of Queanbeyan Pipe and Drums arranged their participation. Included was an original composition of his own, "Mrs Judy Shenstone", named for his wife.
A pretty good day overall.
Another truly great reunion, we seem to have the formula where we just open up Lancer Barracks on a Sunday in November, provide a barbeque luncheon at a nominal cost, organise the Sergeants’ Mess to be open for drinks at bar prices and advertise the function, works well. This time the barbeque was particularly profitable, the sausages had been bought for a Museum fundraiser at Bunnings North Parramatta six months previous and stored in the freezer where we process uniforms. Nobody died or got seriously ill as a result.
All those attending had a truly great time as can be seen from the photos. Some are suffering from the over-eating syndrome that plagues our nation; and some against all medical advice still smoke. All enjoyed the company and were able to reminisce about what happened that is in many cases now so long ago.
Trooper Arthur Dennis Daley was a serving member of the New South Wales Lancers' Lismore half squadron, having joined the Alstonville detachment in 1893 and established himself as a first class horseman, swordsman and marksman. He was one of the 75 members of the Regiment who put up £20 (approx $20,000 in 2012 terms) of his own money to travel to Aldershot in the UK for training. This ‘Aldershot’ squadron of the NSW Lancers left the UK for Australia the day war was declared. Their commander Captain (later Major General) Cox had asked for permission to fight when they reached South Africa.
The New South Wales Government cabled their approval, and when Trooper Daley and his comrades landed in Cape Town, they were allowed to stay and fight. By 19 November 1899, the squadron less 29 who were soon to be in action at Belmont, had arrived by train at Naauwport. There was much patrolling and skirmishing as the Boers gradually withdrew north toward Colesberg. At 03:00 on 17 January 1900, Trooper Daley set out on patrol with a mixed party of twenty Lancers and Australian Horse. At around mid-day, they were engaged by a larger party of Boers. It appears all the Australian’s horses were 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. Troop Sergeant Major Griffin and Corporal Kilpatrick died. Lieutenant Dowling lost an eye and was captured. Arthur Daley was one of ten Lancers who were taken prisoner. He journeyed by train and on foot to a camp at Waterval near Pretoria where he was to stay until liberated on 5 June 1900. Thin and weak, he happily re-joined Lancer Squadron. The sub-unit then took part in skirmishes in the eastern Transvaal until 26 October 1900.
On 16 January 1900, a day before his capture, Arthur Daley wrote this letter to his family:
"Well now we have taken up another position at the back of Colesberg and I think we may have the Boers pretty well surrounded but my word they have been giving us a lively time these last few days. I had the narrowest escape ever I want to have. We were halted on a plain and I was on patrol 500 metres in front of the main body. We had all dismounted and were watching the movements of the enemy, when all at once a shell came whistling past. The shells make a terrible noise going through the air and as this came over my head my horse made one bound and got away from me. No sooner had they opened fire with the big gun than a volley came into us from behind a hill about 500 metres away. Everyone mounted and retired at the gallop, with the exception of one chap who was beside me when my horse got away. The Boers fired away at the main body until they got out of range and were then fully 800 metres ahead of me. I ran along carrying my lance, thinking someone would bring my horse back; but they could not catch him. The Boers seeing me dismounted, thought I was certainly for them and galloped out from behind a hill and tried to cut me off from the others. As soon as I saw them coming I jumped on behind the other chap, who had stayed beside me all the time, and then off we went for our lives. Without a word of a lie I’ll swear a thousand bullets were fired at us, some just grazed past, others tearing the ground around the horse’s hooves. You may not believe it but I was almost in a fit – laughing all the way. I was sitting on the great-coat behind the saddle, with one hand each on Whittington’s shoulders and he with his hat whacking the horse along for all his worth. Old Charlie Hopf turned to come to my rescue once but saw I was coming alright. I think he is the bravest fellow I ever came across. "
After the Boer War Arthur returned to Australia, arriving 6 December 1900 on the Harlech Castle, just in time to take part in the Federation celebrations on 1 January 1901. Some time after the war, he received a valuable gold watch from the Chilean Government in recognition of assistance he had given to Chilean nationals whilst he and they were prisoners of the Boers. He married Laura Ada Ziehlke on 20 September 1905. Their children were Grace, Gladys, Larry, Elsie, Maureen and Thomas. He was a well respected farmer and grazier in the Ballina district until his death in 1951. [Bibliography: MJ Buckley, 'Sword and Lance' 1988]
Lieutenant Geoffrey Harris1 of B Squadron 1st Light Horse Regiment led his party into the attack via Waterfall Gully at Gallipoli on 8 August 1915
"At 03:30 hrs … I fell in my little party of twelve bomb throwers and twelve riflemen with fixed bayonets in support. The latter had orders not to fire a shot without orders, but to use the cold steel. We marched silently down our communication trenches to the gully, where we waited ten minutes while the engineers opened the barbed wire entanglements for us to get through. Then up to the waterfall, (which we scaled), to be met by a shower of Turkish bombs before we had time to get into any sort of order. I immediately gave the order to charge and we took the two lines of trenches in our course bombing the Turks out.
Meanwhile A Squadron, seeing that we had been forced to show our hand, went over … but were either killed or driven back. In the first ten minutes A Squadron was practically put out of action - over 50% [of A Squadron] were killed or wounded in the first rush. … Our bombers went on and took the third line trenches on a narrow front, we could just see the Turks getting back along their communication trenches. It was just breaking daylight when we went over the hill to be met by the crescent trench, full of Turks, half out their trench, waiting for us. Machine guns were barking on three sides of us. Seeing that we could get no further, I gave the order ‘Down!’ and went to earth just as a bullet hit my shoulder. Sergeant Ellis went down on my right – killed instantly, riddled with bullets at close range … I found a lot of Turkish bombs and secured two Turks as prisoners. Five men came up to my support and we had a bomb fight with the Turks for over an hour, when Major Glasgow, Lieutenant Nettleton, and Lieutenant Weir with 16 men came up to join us and help consolidate our position. … At 08:00 hrs after we had consolidated our position and used up 1,100 bombs which were sent up to us from Brigade, we were ordered to retire as our position was untenable. When we reached our regimental lines I received orders to fall in all men left of A and B Squadrons and get them into line with C Squadron. All I could muster was 32 men of which 24 were wounded. Others came in, but very few. In the morning we had attacked 199 strong."
GHL Harris, ‘True to Name: Bloody Angle’, Reveille, 1.8.1932, p 22.
1Lieutenant GHL Harris, a Grazier from Tumut, B Squadron, 1st Light Horse Regiment. Landed Gallipoli, 12 May 1915. Later Colonel MC, MID (x3).
He had served with the Australian Horse in the Boer War; in picture below, third from left.
Major David Brown
I think it would be good for posterity to include the below in the Feb Dispatch.
I was recently clearing out some old paperwork and came across a letter from David Craven dated 30 September 2001. He was helping me with some research I was doing for a presentation on the battle of Sattelberg, which I gave to the Regiment in November 2002.
At the time I asked David whether he could find out the names of the Vehicles each of the Squadrons used in the Second World War as I was thinking of renaming the vehicles in C Sqn, which at the time was the Regiment's training Squadron. David spoke to a number of wartime members and was able to provide all of the A Sqn names and those for 1 Tp C Sqn. Unfortunately none of the remaining C Sqn vehicle names, or those for B Sqn, could be provided, although I do know of 'Cyclone' in C Sqn and that a B Sqn Matilda is held by the Australian War Memorial.
The complete list for A Sqn and 1 Tp C Sqn is shown below, in order of Troop Leader, Troop Sergeant and Troop Corporal.
If any Association members can help find out the missing names (particularly B Sqn) it would be appreciated.
For the last few years the Regiment has been in limbo. Training for an armoured role but without an armoured vehicle. As mentioned in the item about the Regiment above, that is soon to change. That does not take from those of us who served with the smell of diesoline and clank of less than well-adjusted tracks, the nostalgia for that time. Some pictures to remind you. Thanks very much to Greg Pedler and others who posted these to Facebook.
The last tank battle of the 20th Century took place during operation Desert Storm in the 1990s. At that time we in Australia were still studying and applying the tactics learned from WW2 tank theorists and those who had pushed armoured vehicles through the jungles of New Guinea, Borneo and Vietnam. We seemed to have worked out what to do to get our vehicles to the point of battle, what would happen then was of course pure theoretical construct. The video below, linked from a History Channel You Tube post is well worth taking the time out to watch. It tells the story of the battle of the 73rd Easting in Iraq. It explains why the Iraqi Army, a formidable well trained force with brave soldiers simply collapsed. The reason was not about the triumph of good over evil, but equipment and tactics, in these fields the equally brave US forces had a major leading edge. The video takes you through the battle using computer generated visuals and accounts from those on the US side who were there. Its coverage of what happens once contact is made, is quite exceptional. The video is part of a series covering the major tank battles, you will find them on You Tube, be careful, they can be addictive to old tankies, you may find your family restricting your access to a PC, just like you try to do with your Minecraft addicted grandson or similarly One Direction addicted granddaughter.
The Boer War Memorial proposed for ANZAC Parade, Canberra now has bi-partisan parliamentary support.
The proposed memorial to honour the service and sacrifice of Australians who fought in the Boer War is a step closer to reality on 11 December 2012, after being granted Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status by the Australian Taxation Office.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs The Hon Warren Snowdon MP said that donations made to the National Boer War Memorial Association will be tax deductible for members of the public who wish to contribute towards the project.
The Government is also contributing $200,000 in funding towards the memorial. The design for the memorial was unveiled in March 2012.
Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator The Hon Michael Ronaldson, indicated the Coalition had been pursuing this issue for many months and that support by the Government now was better late than never.
The National Boer War Memorial still needs more money to make it a reality, so, if you have the spare cash, www.bwm.org.au/donate.
Bert Castellari and David Craven unless otherwise noted
Time beats us in compiling the record of departed comrades. The names come up but our memories are waning. The best sources, survivors, have become thin on the ground. However, in this issue of the Lancers' Despatch we can recall much of the personal experiences of two who were involved in the New Guinea and Borneo campaigns.
Much of the story has been compiled from two outstanding reports which became available about the turn of the century: "Memories of 'A' Squadron" and "New Guinea Operations -1943-44," (the excellent diary kept by intelligence Sergeant Ron Pile.) What emerges is a story of tank operations in extremely difficult mountainous jungle terrain and the fetid, sweltering climate of the Huon Peninsula, which as it appears in a rainfall map in the Encyclopaedia of Papua and New Guinea (MUP 1972), is "continuously wet." With the stories of Harry Britten and George McLean we are also filling in the background of those earlier departed comrades whose full story was not known.
Sergeant HENRY GEORGE JEFFRIES BRITTEN ("Harry") (NX 101379). Harry died at his Canberra home on 3 December 2012 surrounded by his family. Harry and Moya were married for 66 years and had six daughters, a son, 17 grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.
He would have been 91 in January 2013.
Harry's eldest daughter, Genevieve, in her eulogy at Harry's funeral in Canberra, said her father was descended from a family of gentleman farmers in Herefordshire, England. His mother was fourth generation Australian. Harry's father ran drilling rigs boring for gold and for water on farms. The Big Depression hit them hard but they battled their way through it. When he left school in 1938 Harry went jackarooing at a property near Forbes and there had his first encounter with the Army when buyers came to purchase remounts for the Light Horse.
There is much more to the story of Harry's life but from here we deal with his service years. Harry joined the army three days before his twenty second birthday in January 1942 at Molong.
The Huon campaign began in September, 1943, with the landing of the 20th Brigade of the 9th Division at Finschhhafen on the Rai coast which reaches from there almost to Madang. Ron Pile writes: "Unfortunately, General MacArthur's intelligence staff grossly underestimated the enemy strength." Brigadier W.J.V. Windeyer, commanding the 20th Brigade, urgently called for more infantry support and a squadron of tanks, which brought 'C' Squadron of the 1st Tank Battalion (RNSWL), as we were then known, into the fight.
‘C’ squadron was in continuous action until it was relieved by ‘A’ Squadron early in December. Harry was then a corporal tank commander in No.4 troop. 'C' Squadron had recently supported the 2/48 Battalion in taking Sattelberg (960 metres) threatening Japanese control of the Rai coast. On 12 December No2 Troop, OC Lieutenant George McLean ... "landed at Coconut Beach ... the track forward from the beach was a quagmire having been churned up by ‘C’ squadron tanks and jeeps ... the track was greasy and boggy from the almost continuous rain ... ‘A’ Squadron tanks now led the advance.
The Japanese were throwing explosives at the tanks ... following a particularly loud bang a Besa machine gun was pushed back into the turret ... the sudden movement tightened the firing cable sending a quick burst off inside the tank." [Ron Pile]
Harry Britten with No.4 troop had landed at Wondakai. In 'Memories of A Squadron' he wrote: "I remember spending the night at Wandokai under or in the tank and hoping the gunfire wouldn't continue with danger from shell shrapnel. Years later I called my settlers block Wandokai where I also experienced some rough times." From Wandokai No.4 troop was constantly in action.
Harry was a good troop corporal. He knew his men. "In New Guinea 4 Troop were a mixed lot - 3 barbers, 3 bankies, 5 bushies, 1 plasterer, 1 musician and a few extras. We were asked where we were issued with stretchers. We weren't. During an air raid the recently arrived Yanks dived into dugouts and it was only a matter of seconds to duck over and acquire some. An American captain came over to 4 Troop, ostensibly to hear the Australian drawl, took our picture ... on leaving he said he was glad to see we were getting some comforts like them (stretchers)."
Extract from "Operations": 28 December 1943. "The terrain was not suitable for tanks so No.4 Troop proceeded along the beach passing several (abandoned) Japanese barges ... No.4 Troop was checked by a steep bank ... this was bypassed by proceeding up the bed of a creek, then climbing up the steep coral bank with just enough slope for the tanks to make the climb. This caused the tanks on reaching the top to rear in the air with only a metre or so of track left on the ground. Then they crashed to the ground … FHQ moved out on to the beach which was not sand but fine gravel ... the gravel built up between the tracks, rollers and sprockets, putting two tanks out of action with broken spindles. The Japs opened up on the troop with mortar fire. No casualties or damage resulted."
Stan Butler (No.4 Troop): "While returning after the action at]Scharnhorst Point 'the boss' (Lieutenant J.C. Bartlett) was pretty sick ... for the return journey Cpl Harry Britten was lead tank with Sgt Bill Twine covering the rear. The lead tank detonated a personnel mine with minor damage to the track ..I quickly began depressing the howitzer of our tank and swinging it towards the explosion side for action. I suddenly realised that as the boss was so sick and action was over for the day he had suggested that instead of helping him into the tank we drape him on the outside over the howitzer for the return trip. He was sliding off the gun barrel and under the front of the tank as I depressed the howitzer and we nearly lost him. We did however lose him later as he was evacuated to CCS and hospital with scrub typhus."
A Squadron had a second entity in New Guinea. Sorlie O'Brien and Harry Britten in Memories: "Wal Kenaly was a natural entertainer writing new words to popular songs. His composing partner was Doug Beardmore. So began our A Squadron concert party. Then a group calling themselves 'The Four Shades of Harmony' began rehearsals. They were Harry Britten (Tenor), Jack Honeyman (baritone), Kevin Fox (bass) and John McDade (harmony).
"The concert group became almost professional standard (well, some of them anyway) and they packed in big audiences. One good part was being invited to an army CCS hospital where those involved were in the company of nurses - but only to look at."
In January 1944 the 9th Division ceased operational duties and the 5th Division continued the advance to Saidor. A Squadron, including No.4 Troop, continued to support the infantry who were fresh and untried. Ron Pile: "The terrain ahead consisted mainly of rugged mountains reaching right down to the sea, divided by swift flowing streams with areas of swampy flooded plains ... the ability of tank crews to achieve the impossible by getting their tanks up where and when needed was now well known to the infantry. The 8th Brigade had not been in action before. The knowledge that tanks were part of their backup support was a morale booster."
Many Jap troops, sick, starving and with the dream of. dying for the emperor having evaporated, were being taken as prisoners. Harry came across one of our men who was brandishing a rifle and bayonet and taunting a crouching, dispirited young Japanese. Harry spoke to the harasser: "Billy, he's somebody's son." The harassment stopped. A few words revealing a depth of humanity.
In February 1944, A Squadron moved back to Finschhafen. The 1st Tank Battalion handed its tanks over to their successors, the 2nd/4th Armoured Regiment. Finschhafen's transformation amazed the returning lancers. American construction units had established it as a main base for the South West Pacific Area. In May most of the 1st Battalion began their return to Australia.
Back in the bush behind Southport the unit had a name change to 1st Australian Armoured Regiment (Royal New South Wales Lancers). A Squadron's No.1 Troop gained a new troop sergeant, Harry Britten, transferred at the request of the troop's OC, Lieutenant David Craven. The promotion came with the job. April, 1945, saw the Regiment on its way to Morotai where it would prepare to support the 7th Division in the last major amphibious landing of the Pacific War - Balikpapan, Borneo. David Craven had been in hospital when the regiment left Australia. Harry had to take over his duties as troop O.C.
Geoff James, tank driver in A Squadron FHQ Troop: "Balik had taken a bombardment before and during our approach. Oil wells were ablaze with black smoke belching forth. HMAS Shropshire was sending shells whizzing overhead. Liberator bombers above and rocket firing LCMs blasting about 20 rockets a time in salvos. Jap shore batteries were sending shells plopping around us especially a large one from Klandasan. This gun stopped firing after salvos from Shropshire went above, then below, and next slap bang in the middle. That's better, thank heaven for the Navy."
No.1 Troop was assigned to land in support of 21 Brigade on Green Beach on the left of the main body. In Memories Bill Halliday (No.2 Troop sergeant) says the beach was heavily mined and the movement of tanks from the beach could only be done by following white tapes that had been laid by engineers. To Harry's chagrin the barges, as often happens in hazardous landings, put them ashore in the wrong place, far to the left of the intended objective, No tapes. He led the troop successfully through unexpected obstacles watching from an open hatch for well concealed naval and land mines.
In the following weeks No.1 troop continued to do its job. Night defence was hairy because the Japanese were capable night fighters. Harry: "One night as I was asleep under the back of the tank I was woken because the infantry commander sent a message saying Japs were infiltrating the lines and stabbing each mosquito net with spears. I had no trouble doubling the guard."
When the war ended Harry was among those who volunteered for the British Commonwealth Occupation Force for Japan. He tired of the long wait on Morotai for transport to Japan and instead returned to Australia because the family wanted him back home for the drilling business. At Greta he had another long wait for discharge but met ‘this beaut sheila’, Moya, who was serving in the AWAS. A happy meeting - they married.
Colonel GEORGE BEATON MCLEAN (NX122689) died on 7 December 2012, joined the Regiment at Singleton in September 1942. as a lieutenant fresh from Duntroon. He had joined the Army as a private.
Previously he had been a jackaroo on a grazing property near Inverell. George had the easy open manner of many who have worked in the bush. He would have been 92 in January 2013.
George served in a lot of the action in New Guinea as O.C. of No.2 Troop. Readers will have seen his story published in the Lancers' Despatch of August 2009 (pages 6 to 9 in the hard copy). It details life in the regiment from the time of training in Queensland to the tough days of New Guinea and many interesting sidelights. He told how doubtful 9th Division veterans, who had seen the disaster of Matilda tanks at Halfaya Pass, were won over by a demonstration of the tanks' effectiveness in dealing with Japanese bunkers.
When A Squadron took over from C Squadron George's NO.2 Troop, and two days later Lieutenant Trevor Darby's No.5 Troop were the first to move to the front. Two No.2 Troop tanks and three No.5 Troop tanks led the attack at the Lakona plantation. For what is believed to be the first time tanks were able to attack in line abreast in the jungle providing cover for following infantry. At Fortification Hill in an area of difficult communications a startled call from Trevor Darby saved George's tank from going over a 20 metre cliff.
George was attending a school in Australia when the regiment was ordered to Morotai and was not allowed release to go with it. He caught up with A Squadron on 9 July. However, most of the action after that was B Squadron's. When the war ended George transferred to the BCOF to serve in the occupation of Japan. In following years on return to Australia he served in the 1st Armoured Regiment (regular army) and later was posted to England for service with the British Army and then to an armoured regiment in the occupation army in Germany. On return to Australia he became an instructor at Duntroon.
George was a Colonel on retirement from Duntroon. He was very much a man of the land and. possibly thinking back to his life as a jackaroo, he bought a property ‘Tenterden’, near Guyra. Both he and Harry were frequent attenders at the Regimental Association’s annual reunions.
George is survived by his wife, Helen and four adult children.
(Thanks to Moya Britten, Geoff Francis, David Craven and Brian Bourke for providing information on Harry and George.)
JOHN CLEMENT DREWS (NX124346) John was driver in HQ Squadron and was probably one of the B Echelon jeep drivers who worked tirelessly to keep supplies up to the front contending with tracks which were barely useable and often very close to the action.
Trooper ALLAN JOHN BROWN (NX114646). B Squadron 1 Aust. Armoured Regiment (AIF) on 17 March 2012 aged 88 years 8 months.
For several years I enjoyed the pleasure of contacting my army comrade Allan by mail and Telephone at his unit in a large complex in Padstow Heights NSW.
In late march 2012 my phone calls to him were not answered and later when a recorded message advised the number had been disconnected I became concerned about his wellbeing.
Belatedly seeking information from Veteran Affairs, the supervisor of Freedom of Information gave me the answer I feared receiving. Allan had been found deceased in the unit he loved.
I am unaware if he had any surviving relatives. His only marriage broke down many years ago. I believe his passing has not been reported in Reveille.
Allan served as a Matilda Tank crew member in No. 1 Troop B Squadron in New Guinea 1943-44 and in action at Balikpapan Borneo in July 1945.
He was a very humorous Lancer with a fantastic memory and was a generous donor to charities and fatalities. (Reg Gunn reporting from Gold Coast QLD, 29 September 2012)
Captain PETER HAROLD BINSTEAD FARTHING of Cremorne, passed away 17 August 2012. Peter joined the Regiment as a corporal in the early 1970s having previously served in 1 Commando Company. One of the fittest men in the Regiment he rose to the rank of Captain, and served under Greg McIntyre as 2IC B Squadron before transferring to the inactive list in the early 1980s. All of those who served with Peter had great respect for him as a leader and trainer. In his civilian occupation Peter was a flight crew trainer with Qantas, and by remarks made at his funeral, very well respected in that role. Peter suffered a long illness, the last Association activity we have him recorded as attending was Reserve Forces Day 2004. There was a large Lancer presence at his funeral Northern Suburbs Crematorium, on 23 August 2012 including Regimental association president Len Koles, Honorary Colonel Lee Long, and Major General Warren Glenny. (Editor)
ADRIAN KENNY of Pennant Hills died on 15 August 2012 aged 89. Adrian (Doc) Kenny joined the 1st Armoured Regiment (RNSWL) at Randwick where he lived pre-war. He won the nickname "DOC" because his father was a medical practitioner. He served as the wireless operator in the tank commanded by George McLean. Geoff Francis was his driver Bert Roughley the gunner. They were part of2 Troop A Squadron which served in New Guinea and Borneo.
After returning from the war. Adrian married Rhona Dilley and they had four children. Adrian worked for Philip Morris Pty Ltd for the next 27 years, which took him and the family to Perth, Newcastle and back to Sydney. He retired there at the age of 58. Adrian filled his retirement with lawn bowls and embraced the technology age with enthusiasm. He dabbled in digital photography and all things Apple, including an iPad and an iPhone. When he was not playing with gadgets he spent his time with his 8 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren who now miss him greatly. He was always a very reserved and independent man.
JACK LAMB of Ulladulla passed away on 4 December 2012, aged 84. Jack served in the Regiment in the 1950s. Jack was one of the very regular attendees for the Anzac Day March for the last twenty years or so - he has been absent for the last couple for health reasons. He was also a regular attendee at Reservc Forces Day and attended a number of the recent Reunions held at the Barracks. (Brian Walters)
Lieutenant Colonel GREGORY JOHN MCINTYRE OAM, RFD of Wyee, passed away on 12 October 2012, aged 66. Greg was a man who contributed to society in many ways. A psychologist with many degrees, he sought practical achievement, not just academic excellence. He can be credited with freeing many intellectually disabled people from institutions so they can live meaningful lives in the community. One soul so assisted was David Craven’s son Brian; David asked that we make special mention in Lancers’ Despatch indicating how grateful his family was for Greg’s work. Greg had to fight to achieve the results he did, a charmer and cajoler of bureaucrats, staff, superiors and politicians alike.
Greg’s military career started when he joined the University of New South Wales Regiment in 1964, he then saw service in the 2nd battalion the Royal New South Wales Regiment, 12th/16th the Hunter River Lancers then the Regiment as OC Spt Sqn then OC B Squadron in the late 1970s, early 1980s Terry Boardman was Greg’s SSM, Terry wrote this tribute, it was read at Greg’s funeral:
"I served under Greg first as SSM Spt Sqn and then as SSM B Sqn.
I found him a challenge to work under only because of his innovative ideas and policies.
I enjoyed challenges he presented and would like to think that we got on well and that we were in fact friends as well as comrades under arms.
Greg fitted into a category in my mind that would have led to me having confidence in him if we had gone into battle.
He had an intellect and a breadth of vision that would have been a match for most enemies.
On a lighter note I remember with some humour Greg leading, from the front, a possibly slightly unfit Spt Sqn Gp on one of John McPhee’s famous Mountain Lagoon hikes.
He kept telling us we would stop and rest over the top of the ridge so we would flog ourselves on only to find that there was a false crest and the ridge was still in front. I think that there were 15 false crests but he got us to the destination – blisters and all – and he led from the front - but would dart back to encourage those who were battling.
I do not think there was any malice when during a night on the hike and suffering from cramps and sore feet we heard a great crash and colourful language and discovered that the hammock Greg was sleeping in had come adrift and he had fallen to the ground. There was some barely subdued laughter but no malice because the soldiers respected him.
Vale a good soldier and a good comrade."
Greg was CO of the Regiment from 10 April 1985 until 31 December 1988. After his period in command he served on the Headquarters Reserve Command and Staff college. As you can read between the lines, the fighting spirit Greg showed in his civil life was just as present when he was soldiering. Greg suffered a long and sadly debilitating illness in the years that heralded his passing. The last Association activity he was at was Bob Iverach's funeral in 2008, Greg was by then wheelchair bound. John Paton drove him to the funeral, John was a great friend to Greg in his last years.
Greg’s funeral was held on 20 October 2012 at Ourimbah in glorious sunshine, it was a fitting farewell to a man who had contributed in many areas. There was a large Lancer contingent present. For those who sent messages of condolence, these were passed on to Greg's wife Anita and his large family. (Editor)
GEORGE MCMILLAN of North Nowra died 3 December 2012, aged 99. As a young trooper, George rode his horse up Junction Street Nowra in 1931 as a member of the 1st/21st Light Horse Regiment (New South Wales Lancers) as part of the armed escort for the opening of the War Memorial Gates at Nowra Showground. He was probably the last surviving member of 1/21 LH. His large and extended family filled the hall at Nowra Crematorium. (Terry Hennessey).
GARY JAMES SHEPHERD of Verrierdale in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Queensland aged 64. His contemporaries remember Gary as a fine soldier, serving with the Regiment’s LAD in the 1970s and 80s. His story as told on his funerary order of service lets us know about the Gary behind the man we knew.
"Gary was a very lonely man in his early life. He tells stories of living in a boys’ home set on many acres where he was scared to venture outside to go the toilet in the middle of the night. As a result he would wet the bed and have to strip it the next morning and wash the sheets at 8 years of age. He used to travel to Central Station in Sydney and sit there to wait for his Mother who had promised him a day out. When it became dark he decided that she wasn’t going to meet him and so he would travel back to Pendle Hill in the Western Suburbs, he was 11 years old then.
This made him determined that he was going to be the best Husband and Father around. He endeavoured to the best of his ability to carry that out until his dying day. He was a friend who would do anything to help someone out, even if it took his last penny.
He loved his time driving trucks and had many adventures on the road. He also enjoyed his 30 years with the Army Reserve (1/15 RNSWL) and later his 25 years with the Army Cadets.
Over the last twelve months since finding out he had this dreadful disease he has shown a courage that many can only dream of. He has been overwhelmed with the love and kindness that was showered on him from his friends and family. It has been a roller coaster of laughter and tears with all who came to see him. We thank you for taking the time to visit or phone."
The tyranny of distance (Gary’s funeral service was at Tewantin, near Noosa) meant few of his fellow Lancers could be present, Eric Drew and Chris Lawley made the effort and represented us. (Editor)
Thank you all very much for your assistance in supporting the Museum and Association financially this financial year. Our records (and they may not be perfect, human data entry has been involved) show the following supported by donation, the Association:
Bryan Algie, Max Bell, John Booth, Phillip Bridie, Ron Cable, Joy Canham, Bert Castellari, Alan Chapman, David Craven, Ted Fallowfield, Reg Gunn, John Haynes, Paul (Higgy) Heginbotham, Jack Lamb, B McEvilly, Alfred (Snow) McEwan, Jack Rolfe, Bob Stenhouse, Gloria Warham, Roy Young.
and the following the Museum:
Bryan Algie, Max Bell, John Booth, Phillip Bridie, Ron Cable, Bert Castellari, Alan Chapman, David Craven, Ted Fallowfield, Kevin Franklin, Reg Gunn, John Haynes, Paul (Higgy) Heginbotham, Therese Holles, Anthony Huntley, Jack Lamb, B McEvilly, Alfred (Snow) McEwan, Parramatta RSL Sub Branch, Margaret Reid, John Rodwell, Jack Rolfe, Bob Stenhouse, Gloria Warham, Albert Zehetner.
Yes we really do need your financial assistance. No amount too large, no amount too small.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"A regiment is not solely the men who presently comprise its strength. It is an entity stretching back in time to its beginnings. It is all the men who have served in its ranks, with their traditions and achievements. The serving unit, like the tip of an iceberg, may be the only part you see, but underneath, supporting it, there is a great deal more." (These words, often quoted, were introduced by our Patron, Major General Warren Glenny, AO RFD ED, during his term as 2IC of 1st/15th Royal NSW Lancers in the 1960s)
Lancers' Despatch is Published in February and August each year by the New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881 and the Royal New South Wales Lancers Association. All material is copyright. John Howells - Editor, New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated, Linden House, Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, PARRAMATTA NSW 2150, AUSTRALIA, email@example.com Tel: +61 (0)405 482 814, Fax: +61 (0)2 4733 3951.
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