Lancers' Despatch 26
Website of the Royal New South Wales Lancers Lancer Barracks and Museum
The Beret is Back!
Beersheba Day 2013
Photos and text by the editor unless otherwise noted.
Next year will be a big one for those of us who seek to keep the history of the Regiment alive. It was in 1914 that the Australian Government having chosen to support Britain, France and Russia in their conflict with Germany and Austria-Hungary decided to form a new Army. The existing Army (Australian Military Force (AMF)) was covered by a Defence Act that did not envisage service outside Australia and was heavily fleshed out with conscripts, young men fulfilling their universal service obligation (note that there were fewer conscripts in the Light Horse where you joined with your horse than in other units). The New Army was to be formed of volunteers only, and sent from our shores under special terms negotiated with the British government. It was not until the Statute of Westminster 1931, and the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 that Australia had formal control of its own armed forces when outside Australian territory. In 1914, the British asked for sub-units (squadrons) only to be integrated into British units, and be under British command.
The New Army, to be called the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was made up entirely of volunteers and supplied to the British under terms where they were to be employed at formation (Brigade to Corps) level in consultation with the Australian Government. And following the Wilmansrust and Spelonken incidents in the Boer War; the volunteers were not to be subject to the death penalty.
August 1914 thus saw the formation of the First Light Horse Regiment (Australian Imperial Force). Lancers resigned from the AMF Regiment and joined, the Lancers were left without Headquarters, A and B squadrons; all were now AIF soldiers.
On Saturday 30 August 2014, there will be a pageant through the streets of Parramatta. Organised by Ian Hawthorn, this will be a public display of the unit’s history from its deployment as Lancers to the Boer War, Light Horse in WW1, mechanisation in 1936, and deployment with tanks in WW2, then a display of subsequent vehicles till today where members of the current regiment will display their Bushmaster driving skills. Of particular interest will hopefully be the first public parades by the Museum’s soon to be fully restored Matilda and Staghound armoured vehicles.
I got an interesting note from Matt McMahon following the item on Tank names in the August 2013 Despatch. Cyclone and Commando are still around:
I would like to thank those who have contributed to Lancers’ Despatch, particularly Bert Castellari and Michael McGraw. I also apologise for the mis-spelling of Jack Curtayne's name in the August issue.
Lieutenant Colonel Rob Lording (Commanding Officer)
The Regiment commenced training at the beginning of 2013 with a comparatively low tempo following the constraints which had been imposed on Army Reserve Training Salaries (ARTS) late last year. This initially limited training to just two parade nights per month and a single weekend in the first quarter, but with careful management and a modest increase in ARTS allocation, this was increased in the remaining months up to the end of the financial year. The Training Activity Resource Plan (TARP) for 2013-14 and subsequent financial years has seen further increases which will enable the unit to conduct a greater number of training activities.
Training has focused on the basic tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) of the Light Cavalry capability. This has included the occupation and conduct of observation posts, dismounted patrolling, reconnaissance and more recently an introduction to urban operations. A training weekend was conducted at the NSW Police CIRT facility near Goulburn, where personnel from A and B Squadrons were trained in methods for entering and performing low risk search of buildings. This proved to be an interesting activity which highlighted the complexity of conducting operations in close urban terrain and the need to apply stringent rules of engagement that characterise contemporary operating environments. These skills will be further developed and tested in training activities focusing on cordon and search.
Importantly, the Regiment conducted a field firing range practice at Singleton in May in order to maintain weapons skills and proficiencies. The section defence practice saw the employment of all small arms weapon systems up to .50 cal to test individual weapon handling as well as the application and control of fire.
The Regimental training program culminated in a troop competition conducted at Holsworthy Training Area in mid-November. This was be a very intensive 2-day program of activities which challenged personnel in individual skills and evaluated the training standards that have been achieved throughout the year. A selection of awards were presented at the conclusion by the Honorary Colonel.
In early June, the Regiment received a request to nominate personnel for deployment on Op RESOLUTE, which is the ADF's contribution to the protection of Australia's borders and offshore maritime interests.
As a result of the very short notice, all administrative preparations had to be completed in two weeks, including Navy swim tests, medical and dental examinations as well as the myriad of related documentation needed for employment on continuous fulltime service. This was only possible as a result of the excellent work done by SGT Beau St Leone, SGT Tim Hite and members of the Ops Cell. Five members of the Regiment were eventually selected for employment within the Transit Security Element and moved to Darwin in late June to commence force preparation training and employment in a range of activities with the Royal Australian Navy for border protection. We wish them a challenging, safe and rewarding deployment and look forward to seeing them on return.
The Regiment received an initial allocation of five Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicles in mid-October 2013. Another two PMV, including a command variant, will be allocated in 2014 with loan pool entitlement to additional vehicles during the readying and ready phase of the force generation cycle. The initial allocation of vehicles have passed through the re-build line following return from MEAO and were immediately put to work in Puckapunyal on drivers courses being run by the unit. As a result, the Regiment now has a significant number of trained PMV drivers together with a cadre of crew commanders and instructors . The training priority will need to shift to generating additional crew commanders in order to fill positions within the troop being generated for certification at Hamel 15.
The impending unit establishment reviews will provide greater clarity of the role the Regiment is to undertake when converted to Protected Lift and inform revised structure, manning and equipment. At this stage, there is an expectation that the Light Cavalry scout capability will be retained in order to provide an ISR effect for the Reserve Battlegroup and dismounts for employment within Cavalry squadrons. The new establishment will take effect from 1 January 2015 and will also inform changes to the employment category review which is now under way.
The Regiment is well prepared to meet these new challenges and looking forward to commemorations in 2014 to mark the raising of the 1st Light Horse Regiment for service in World War 1.
We have recently succeeded in having two of our key exhibits preserved. The King’s Banner presented to the Regiment in 1904 for its contribution to the Second Boer War, and General de la Rey’s personal banner captured by Lancers in South Africa. The preservation work was paid for by grants obtained by the tireless efforts of Ian Hawthorn.
The past six months have also been a time for compliance management. It has been discovered that the Museum has to comply with the requirements of the following government bodies:
Some require a registration, some inspect the Museum, others require reports, in a couple of cases the same report is required just to a different body. The requirements do change regularly, and for the most part we are not informed. As there is no excuse for not knowing the law, is there any wonder there are lawyers and accountants making a killing in the not-for-profit sector. We simply get-by as we are able to draw on the experience of Ross Brown, the dedication of Joe Tabone and the help of John McPhee.
When our current Prime Minister was elected, he said he would reduce red tape; he has a challenge.
The amount of work in preserving and displaying the Museum’s unique collection cannot be understated. To make special mentions of Jack Best for his stalwart work on the uniform collection and in guiding almost every Sunday; Michael McGraw for ensuring our displays are pristine and secure; Joe Tabone who in addition to being Treasurer, manages our ACE and Staghound restoration projects; Bill Prosser for managing our vehicle fleet and organising displays; Gordon Muddle without whose expertise our vehicles would stop; David Crisp who will do just about anything for the Museum; does not diminish the admiration held for the work done by every volunteer. Well done and keep it up.
Photo update on Ace in November 2013. Compare the situation now with original condition photos. Both engines are substantially finished waiting on the last starter motor and fabrication of temporary exhaust pipes so that the workers will not gas themselves in the shed when they start.
Opened the transmission and karchered it out on 19 November 2013. Looks good, no deterioration or serious rust inside. The transmission has been successfully restored too.
Joe says looking good for start of motors on last day of work for 2013 or first week into 2014.
Our Regimental Association was first formed during the Boer War. At that time there was no RSL or Department of Veterans’ Affairs to look after soldiers’ welfare. The Association took on the role, and that role continues to this day. There have been many iterations of the Association, including a period between WW1 and WW2 where there appear to have been more than one. Our current Association brought them all together after WW2 covering those who had served with the Lancers in the Boer War and before WW1, the 1LH in WW1, the Lancers between the Wars, those who served with the 2/2 MG Regt (formed mainly from former Lancers soon after WW2 was declared), those who served with 1AR (RNSWL) during WW2 and post-war Lancers.
The Association today exists because a few good men saw the value in soldiers and former soldiers keeping alive the friendships made when serving together. The names Norman Bent, David Donald, Bert Castellari, Brian Walters and Len Koles come to mind, but none more so than David Craven. David passed away recently, this edition of Lancers’ Despatch carries his obituary and much of his story; farewell comrade.
It is now up to us, to continue with the legacy left us by these men. And we have a substantial task.
The Regiment is yet to have its role properly defined. Is it to simply be a protected troop lifter or will the vehicles be equipped weaponry to allow offensive protected reconnaissance capability. The Association needs to do all it can to ensure the Regiment retains an offensive role to ensure it can contribute to defending the Nation, as it has for the past 129 years.
The Association has joined the RAAC Corporation and has representation on its council. Reserve units and the needs of former reservists has to be placed clearly before this body.
On 22 October 2013, Brigadier Alan Murray, Commander 8 Brigade speaking to the University of New South Wales Regiment Association expressed concern that "advocacy" by former-serving members of the Army must be through the "chain of command" and that organisations like the RSL and the Defence Reserves Association are recognised as the appropriate bodies to advocate on behalf of Associations. Whilst the Royal New South Wales Lancers Association will use every means of advocacy including the DRA and RSL to foster the interests of the Regiment and its Alumni, It is decidedly older that any "chain of Command" organisation, and will use any channel.
We know that the Regiment’s Honorary Colonel, Colonel Lee Long RFD has a position until the end of 2014. The Regiment has always had a highly placed advocate in the form of an Honorary Colonel. Thus the saddest news we have is that should the Army not see sense and revoke Minute DGPERS-A/OUT/2012/R12885742 of 23 October 2012, the unbroken line of Regimental Honorary Colonels extending from Lord Carrington in 1888 to Colonel Lee Long will break on 1 January 2015. From that point we will share a “Colonel Commandant” with 12/16 HRL. The first holder of this office to be Major General Ian Spence, a former CO 12/16 HRL. The voice we have had for 126 years will be snuffed out. Honorary Colonels cost little, they cover most of their own expenses. They simply stand-up for their units raising issues. It is obvious that diluting those voices is in the interest of those who do not wish to hear.
In 2014, a year steeped in history, the Association will play its part. We had the largest group ever in the 2013 ANZAC Day march; we have a challenge to field even more in 2014. Reserve Forces Day has the 2014 theme; again we need to be there in large numbers. Then we have the Pageant on 30 August 2014. Use those black boot brushes on your berets ladies and gentlemen. There will be lots of marching.
On the 29 November 2013, the Chief of Army (CA), Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO issued a signal which stated in part:
"I have therefore made the decision that the beret will be approved as an item of dress in the regimental environment. This will include the Army blue beret and the Royal Australian Regiment rifle green beret. Commanding officers will have authority and discretion to decide when the beret may be worn within their units, cognisant of occupational health and safety, less when the slouch hat is mandated through the Army dress manual."
Sad of course that CA did not bother to mention the RAAC, however, the fact that wearing of the black beret is again allowed in at least some circumstances is positive.
The Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Rob Lording has indicated:
"It is my intention to enforce a policy of having the recruits and pre-IET’s wear bush hat/blue beret until they are Corps qualified and to them present them with their berets."
A mounted vigil at the Light Horse Memorial in Anzac Parade this year marked the commemoration of the Australian Light Horse charge at Beersheba in 1917. A full parade was not possible but two members of The Australian Light Horse Association, in uniform and mounted, were positioned one each side of the memorial. They were a/Major Andrew Kelly (who is a member or the ADF), and Trooper John Benson. They stood out in the sunny 25 degree early afternoon.
The president of the Light Horse Association, Phil Chalker in civvies, led the ceremony with a brief introduction and recitation of the Ode followed by wreath laying on behalf of the LH Association. Then a wreath for the Royal New South Wales Lancers Association followed by regular attendees, Bob and Adrienne Bradley, who laid one for Lance Corporal Fane de Salis. John Palmer. Bob Stenhouse and Bert Castellari represented the Lancer Association. Also representing The Australian light Association was one of its directors, Chris Walsh.
For the Lancer Association reunion at Lancer Barracks on 3 November 2013 was a great. We were able to crawl over the Regiment’s new A vehicles and meet many old friends; the number of former members of B Squadron, late 1970s was particularly heartening. The psychos tell us that staying in contact with those you served and worked with throughout your life promotes contented longevity so if you did not make it this year and you are a member of the Association, be there in November 2014.
The recent requirement to send 1AR crewman to Afghanistan to crew PMVs as those trained as drivers from other corps proved inadequate. An armoured or protected vehicle needs to be ready to go at any time, and when in the field driven so as to minimise exposure to enemy weapons. These are skills taught to members of the RAAC from the time they join the corps regardless of rank or other experience until they can wear the Black Beret.
An interesting article written by Phil Vernon for the 1939 equivalent of Lancers’ Despatch provides a historical perspective.
"The affection of the cavalryman for his mount is traditional, and many poignant and touching stories have been written on this subject.
Today, our mounts are inanimate things of steel and wood, so our natural feelings towards them cannot be expected to be those we would have for that magnificent animal the horse. The combination of horse and man produced the ‘Cavalry Spirit’, that nothingness so vital to our efficiency and esprit-de-corps.
Those who were in this Regiment when it was horsed, need no reminding that care of the horse came first. He had to be watered, fed, groomed and rugged before the man attended to his own personal comfort.
Two things were necessary to obtain the best results, knowledge and horse-mindedness. The writer well remembers an incident during the last War. A party of Light Horsemen were attached to a mounted unit of Royal Engineers; one of the Tommy's horses had got off the lines during the night and was found to have gorged on dry barley. The tommy was advised by the Aussies not to let him drink, but did not heed the advice; in consequence when moving out on a stunt next morning, he was minus his mount.
The Royal New South Wales Lancers today find themselves with a different mount. Knowledge of it is just as important; motor-mindedness must replace horse-mindedness; but the cavalry spirit, bred of the horse, must remain.
Every member of the Regiment should make a point of gaining as much knowledge of the vehicles on which we are mounted, as his job allows. He should feel that he, the crew, and the vehicle are a fighting unit. In the main the care of the vehicle falls on the driver and his assistant [in 1939, the Regiment was a mechanised machine-gun unit, mounted infantry strengthened with extra Vickers MGs, similar to the light horse but mounted on un-armoured trucks not horses] and that care is as important as the care of the horse.
Routine maintenance as laid down should be carried out with meticulous care, remembering that small things neglected, grow into large ones. Much of a maintenance schedule may seem ridiculous to those unaccustomed to military methods; for instance the frequent cleaning of plugs and points; but let us examine the result of one driver to neglect it:
A vehicle has a dirty plug, to clean it on the march can hold up :-
To have affection for a thing of steel and wood, as mentioned earlier, is hardly possible, but treat it as part of your fighting equipment and see that it is serviceable before you attend to your personal comfort.
The Cavalry spirit must remain with motors as with horses."
The lessons particularly the "golden rule" put forward by the then Captain Vernon in 1939 still ring true albeit there are no longer spark plugs or wood in A or P vehicles
It is of course the skills of vehicle husbandry and minor tactics that the now PMV mounted Regiment can bring to the combined arms team it will be part of. In a continent our size, armoured and protected mobility is essential.
Edited by Bert Castellari, the words are those of the late David Craven.
Some years ago David Craven compiled some notes on his army service and later transcribed them into some closely typed pages ‘for the possible interest of my family and some close friends ... this briefly covers my army service, starting in May, 1940, in the Militia (now known as the Army Reserve) on part time service.'
Here are some extracts. His opening words capture the initially naive but inspired young man that he was.
Joining the Regiment
"When I enlisted at age 18 on 23 May 1940 at Carrington Road Drill Hall Randwick, I didn't know which unit I was joining. It was the closest to home, I came to realise it was a good choice. Joining at the same time was mate Noel Harrod and others who became good mates including Jack Curtayne, Murgy Hobbs and John Blackberry. The first experience of anything military after the medicals and paperwork were brisk commands from an impressive, soldierly young corporal named Doug Fems who got us lined up into some sort of form to hand over to Troop Sergeant Fred Fitzsimmons. He looked and acted like a real soldier and then introduced us to our Troop Leader Lieutenant Col Southwell, who saluted, took over and told us we should feel proud to be In the No 1 Troop, A Squadron of the 1st Light Horse Machine Gun Regiment (Royal NSW lancers). We saw no horses and later found there were none.
Knowing nothing of military organisation we thought Col appeared to be someone almost akin to God. No way could I imagine that three years later, having served most time in that troop, I would become its leader."
David came up through the ranks to be troop sergeant. He was nominated for a short three months course at RMC Duntroon "which I topped and was commissioned in early 1943. After a time as OC RHQ Troop in HQ Squadron, I applied for and was glad to be posted back to No,1 Troop, A Squadron. as troop leader. I was glad also to feel that the feedback from the troop members was good."
In fact, David was only a week with RHQ. He must have been quite persuasive with the CO to have avoided the customary posting of newly minted officers to a unit, or part of his existing unit away from former colleagues. He was succeeded at RHQ by Lieutenant Jim Hartridge who also, after about a week, was transferred to A Squadron. RHQ was always a bit of an orphan.
Continuing from David's transcript: "On that first night I came under the spell of the Lancers, and the feeling for this regiment has been with me ever since.
In 1940 the Regiment was quite under strength having lost a large number who had volunteered to join the AIF and form the nucleus of the 2/2nd Machine Gun Battalion."
David wanted to transfer to the AIF with them but at that time he was regarded as under age and required his father's permission to enlist in the AIF. His father, Norman, who was wounded in France in the Great War refused. David once said that many of those early volunteers did not come back.
Recalling service In New Guinea, David wrote of the regiment's first actions involving C Squadron. "Then It was the turn of A Squadron who had formed a base at Bonga on the coast. We were all ready for whatever lay ahead, and I was quite confident in myself and the eleven members of my troop. Then came the bad news from Captain Bob Watson that 1 and 3 troops were to stay at Bonga in reserve in case needed while the other four troops were to support the 9th Division In their advance along the Rai coast.
My troop and Dick Steele's troop were disappointed to say the least. I wondered why it was us - maybe Bob didn't have as much confidence in 1 and 3 troops or maybe because the other troop leaders were senior to me. I asked Bob for permission to go along as observer - and Bob said: ‘No, stay here.’ We didn't get news of how things were going which was also disappointing. My good mate Murgy Hobbs was troop sergeant of 3 Troop and one time we shared a bottle of warm beer which my father sent by mail in a hollowed out loaf of bread.
I took the risk of breaking orders and got a lift in a supply craft to join the main group at Masewang River on Christmas Day, 1943. Found Bob Watson had been wounded a few days before and been evacuated which meant I wouldn't get ticked off. Gave them our news and got theirs, had a nice lunch and then back by the craft to Bonga for our non-alcoholic Christmas celebration. Eventually around mid-February, after two months of operations, the squadron returned to Bonga. All four troops had been in action. No tanks or men were lost in action and the infantry were glad of our support.
Having recovered from his wound Bob Watson re-joined the squadron and at last I could ask him why 1 and 3 troops had missed the actions. He said it was a tough choice he had to make. He had as much confidence in 1 and 3 troops as the others and promised that in any future operations they would be given priority. True to his word in the opposed landings at Balikpapan in 1945, 1 and 3 troops were the first ashore. Ironically, neither he nor I were there.
In May 1944 we went back to Australia but didn’t take our tanks as we expected. They were handed over to the 2/4th Armoured Regiment for their operations in Bougainville and Wewak. We didn’t know this and had hidden cigarettes, cigars and other goodies, obtained from Americans, in ammunition boxes and other places. We heard later that the 2/4th had been pleased with what they found.
Back in Australia
After we returned from New Guinea in 1944 we all thought our days of overseas operations were over as there were other armoured regiments, well trained and equipped, who would be sent next. We were wrong. I had dengue fever and spent time in hospital. Then in 1945 I took part in the brigade athletics competition. I broke my ankle in the hop, step and jump event and was sent to hospital in Baulkam Hills with my leg in plaster for weeks. One day I was amazed to be told by another patient that our regiment was about to leave again for overseas service. Got the plaster off my leg and myself out of hospital as soon as I could but the regiment had gone.
Heading for Borneo
I found the regiment was going to Morotai to prepare for a landing and operations at Balikpapan, Borneo. I was determined to catch up if possible but there were frustrating delays in transit. Finally got to Cairns and was held up there for some time. Eventually I got a flight to New Guinea by flying boat which wasn't meant for passengers, having no seats and a plank on each side of the unsealed space. We were in tropical shorts and shirts and flying high over the Owen Stanley range was the coldest I have ever been - freezing. We landed at Madang which was pleasant but there was another frustrating delay.
Eventually and thankfully another move this time by an American Liberty ship heading for Morotai. On the ship was Lieutenant Col Watson from the regiment's C Squadron. In the following months we became great friends. On the way the ship stopped briefly at Biak (Dutch New Guinea) which had become an American air base. We had heard on the radio of the two atomic bombs and that the war looked like ending. Much to our surprise a few US fighter planes were going crazy doing loops and swoops over the sea and firing machine guns. This was apparently their way of celebrating.
A day or so later we were arrived at Morotai, the very day the war ended. All were very thankful but no gun fire or aerobatics here. An Australian officer spread the word that a Prisoner of War Reception Group of mixed nationalities was being formed to go to Manila and was seeking volunteers Col and I felt that this would be worth doing and more helpful than re-joining the regiment and filling In time so we volunteered and were soon off to the Philippines. In the shallow water of Manila harbour we sailed between many sunken ships, evidence of Allied air attacks, as was the sight of the city in ruins.
Our camp was mixed, Australian and American while the British and Dutch and others were elsewhere. The Yanks were a good bunch. Our Australian Major OC said. ‘These Americans have to learn how to make tea … they just have little bags with hot water in a mug.’ We also thought it strange to drink beer out of a tin can.
We soon found our job was heavy going but rewarding. It was round the clock work meeting the planes as they arrived full of POWS. They were medically assessed and treated the needy ones going to hospital. Many were in a bad way and just barely made it. Others were got ready to move on to Australia. Each man was interviewed to learn of their experiences. The warm feedback from our POWs was great. Col and I didn't get much time off but toured some of the bombed out city and went to Corregidor scene of the famous General Douglas MacArthur declaration, ‘I will return.' One day we got a jeep and spent a full day exploring and talking to Phllippinos. There must have been a lot of planning to have had things so well organised a credit to whoever did it.
I have no Idea how many prisoners passed through our hands or how many were in our group, but certainly a lot of both. Col and I are the only ones of our regiment who can tell of this episode, a rewarding time. Lighter moments included a visit by Lady Mountbatten who was loved by all. Also cock fighting, widely performed and losing bets. We were In Manila just under two months returning to Australia on 9 November 1945.
I had two weeks in hospital with tropical hepatitis, then three weeks at Lady Wakehurst Convalescent Home. Returning to the army I was glad to get a cushy posting at Victoria Barracks. My job dealt with discharges. Some of our members will never know that their release was fast tracked a bit when I spotted their names in the paper work. I quite enjoyed my time there."
David's final words were: "I finally bowed out on 3 July 1946. ln all just over six years of service in the militia and the AIF. I have to consider myself fortunate that in doing my duty as was required things went well for me in what was an interesting lot of experiences even despite the disappointment of missing A Squadron actions in New Guinea. Another bonus of my time in the army is that I gained many great mates whose friendship has continued through all the years since."
After the War
David’s service did not end in 1946. He served almost continuously on the Committee of the Royal New South Wales Lancers’ Association from the first meeting of its re-formation in 1946 until December 2009, almost 63 years. The positions he held included Treasurer, from 1946 to 1954 and Secretary from 1982 to 1995.
David is probably best known to most Lancers’ Association members for his role as editor of the Lancers’ Newsletter, for many years until February 2001.
When the current editor of what is now Lancers’ Despatch took over the role in August 2001 he found it difficult to match David’s exacting standards. He recalls many phone calls and letters with comments and corrections.
You will note that as we approach the ANZAC Centenary commemorations, we should also spare a thought for those who served in the Boer War.
Colonel John Haynes, president of the RAACA NSW and moving force behind the push to have a National Boer War Memorial constructed in ANZAC Parade, Canberra has shared with us the letters written by his great uncle Trooper Malcolm Haynes during his service in South Africa with the New South Wales Imperial Bushmen. They are a great insight into the thoughts of a front line soldier far away from home. If you have the time, CLICK HERE and read.
Just to note the loss of a small piece of our Corps history.
The New South Wales Mounted Rifles was formed in the 1880s. Three contingents from the Regiment were sent to the Boer War and the unit like the New South Wales Lancers was presented with a King’s Banner for this service. The unit continued as the 2nd then 9th Australian Light Horse Regiment (NSWMR). It was eventually based in western NSW. Following World War 1 the Regiment was given the designation 6th Light Horse (NSWMR) and the honours of the unit of the same number that had fought at Gallipoli and in Palestine. The unit continued to be based in Western NSW, using a depot in Parkes and other locations.
It trained as Light Horse until 1941 when it was converted to armoured cars. The Regiment was not deployed in WW2. The Royal New South Wales Lancers was the only light horse unit with a heritage from the Boer War and World War 1 to see combat in a mobile role in World War 2.
The 6th New South Wales Mounted Rifles was re-formed as a Motor Regiment (APC Role) in 1948, based again west of the Great Dividing Range. On 1 July 1956, the unit was transferred from the Royal Australian Armoured Corps to the Royal Australian Infantry and became an Infantry Battalion. It lost its identity when the Regiment was absorbed into 17 Bn the Royal New South Wales Regiment (17 RNSWR) in 1960 then ultimately 1/19 RNSWR.
Locals, however, still kept up their Light Horse and Armoured Corps links, with memorabilia displays in messes a light horse re-enactment troop etc. Now a piece of this history will be lost. We have been advised that the Army departed the Parkes Depot in December 2013. The reasons given included the low numbers attending and the cost of asbestos removal from all buildings. It is expected that the buildings will be removed over the next several years and the site decontaminated. It can therefore be expected that the land would be sold off as excess to requirements at some future date.
News like this puts into perspective the essential nature of the work done by our Lancers’ Museum volunteers, the Regimental Honorary Colonel, Commanding Officer and Association in keeping the Museum open and Regiment viable and based at Lancer Barracks. Just too easily a community can lose its heritage. (Photographs Greg Godde)
We must be forever mindful of our history, the history of the Regiment and Armoured Corps is part of that of the Nation, and we have a sacred obligation to ensure it endures living and breathing, not just on the pages of dusty books.
Another case was raised recently by our Honorary Colonel with RAAC Corp. To quote his briefing note:
"In accordance with Plan BEERSHEBA 3/9 SAMR and 10 LH are to come under the command of infantry battalions in each State.
This arrangement has identified two issues of concern. OC 10 LH has been advised that once the transfer is complete unit members will be required to wear generic RAAC badges instead of unit badges and as they will be a sub unit within an infantry bn they will no longer be able to parade their Guidons. The first issue arose from an email from RSM Ceremonial WO1 David Lehr, the second was an interpretation from a comment in the same email referring to the 3/4 Cav Guidon [B Sqn 3/4 Cav is to be a reserve unit in Queensland under command an infantry battalion]. … Somehow I doubt that the authors of the Ceremonial manual ever anticipated that a sub unit of a unit would ever be of a different Corps to the parent unit on a permanent basis."
The real concern is of-course that when incorporated into an infantry battalion, the squadrons will not be given the opportunity to train effectively. The battalion commander with a pedestrian focus is less than likely to allocate valuable training time to the development and maintenance of the husbandry and tactical skills essential for effective mobile operations than an independent squadron commander. Your editor now aging and in retirement has seen many inquiries like that which produced plan Beersheba; they all produced "the answers". I would contend the Beersheba plan has as many flaws as the others; when a plan has flaws that place heritage and effective training for war in jeopardy, it is necessary to raise them.
The Kokoda Track is a single-file foot thoroughfare that runs 96 kilometres overland through the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea. The track is the most famous in Papua New Guinea and is known for being the location of the World War II battle between Japanese and Australian forces in 1942 when Australian troops first managed to stem the tide of the advancing Japanese. I decided to walk the track from North to South partly for the physical challenge and partly because it’s as close as I’m likely to get to where the Regiment fought in PNG. Finschafen and related sites are difficult to get to and the province there is somewhat lawless. Balikpapan (in Borneo) is easier to get to with direct flights available from Singapore thanks to its modern day status as an oil mining town.
The track starts at the village of Kokoda in Oro Province, and then crosses rugged and isolated terrain, which is only passable on foot before ending at Owen’s Corner, 50 kilometres east of Port Moresby. It reaches a height of 2,190 metres as it passes around the peak of Mount Bellamy. There are very few level sections of the track, mostly it is steep, muddy steps up or down matted with thick tree roots and frequently crossing creeks or waterfalls using fallen logs tied together with vines as bridges. In recent years six Australian trekkers have died while attempting to walk the track. Hot, humid days with intensely cold nights, torrential rainfall and the risk of endemic tropical diseases such as malaria make it a challenge to walk. Concentration is critical. Every foot step must be carefully placed thanks to the persistent mud and knotted tree roots.
Getting to the start of the track is an adventure in itself. After flying from Sydney to Port Moresby, we then caught a small passenger (DASH-8) plane to Popondetta (a sealed airstrip with a tin shed as a terminal building) before a bumpy truck ride 3 hours North to Buna and Gona. It took me back to the old International trucks that would take us to Singo and back. My back only took two days and half a pack of Voltarin to recover.
Not far from Popondetta is the wreck of an old crashed B-25 Mitchell bomber. Many old pieces of equipment have been decorated and used as garden ornaments.
Near Gona was a small “war museum” consisting of two thatched huts housing a collection of collected world war two relics including the round Japanese glasses, in perfect condition, that you can see in the front on the table.
Buna and Gona are known as the Northern Beaches as they are on the North Coast of the Papua New Guinea mainland and they are where the Japanese first landed in PNG. Only after bathing in the salt water beach were we told about the salt water crocodiles! At Buna we took a photo of my brother and I at the same place where a famous war-time photo was taken.
At Buna Japanese and Australian positions are still evident although mostly hidden by the tall grass. Some equipment is still in place, but any useful equipment or parts have been put to work in other roles.
After a night or two of relaxation in the native village of Buna we set off before dawn and walked for two hours to catch our truck for the trip to Kokoda where we were to start our trek. From Kokoda the track is fairly level for a couple of hours before rising sharply into the Owen Stanley Ranges and Isurava Village. Each day we would start hiking at 6:30am and finish mid-afternoon. This gave us enough time to wash in a local creek, eat and prepare our bodies, feet and equipment for the next day. Being out bush with a bunch of civies was a challenge but it was a new experience being kitted out with gear not provided by the lowest bidder for a change.
Not far beyond Isurava Village is a moving memorial with four large plinths with the words “Mateship”, “Endurance”, “Sacrifice” and “Courage” engraved upon them. These words were chosen by World War 2 veterans of the Kokoda Campaign to represent they key attributes they felt helped them survive. The memorial rises out of the jungle on the site of a large World War Two battle where desperate hand-to-hand fighting took place to take and hold this strategic piece of ground.
Shortly after Isurava monument we held a short service at Con’s Rock – named after medical orderly Con Vafiopulous. The decorations were flowers placed on the rock by our porters.
The rock is flat and during the war was used as an operating table for an amputation performed on a badly wounded soldier who was then carried the 70Kms back to Owen’s Corner by PNG porters. Later we followed in his tracks through Efogi 1 and Efogi 2, Eora Creek and Agulogu. At regular intervals along the track you can see partly collapsed foxholes and there is plenty of ordnance horded by the locals who then charge 10 Kina (about $5) each to look at it.
We held a dawn service at Brigade Hill (site of some of the most intense fighting on the track) before climbing the incredibly steep Ioribaiwa Ridge - the line of the Australians last desperate stand. From near here the Japanese could see the lights of Port Moresby before finally being turned around by the Australians who then advanced back along the length of the track driving them back into the sea near Buna.
For us however, we continued south, walking down off the Ridge for our last night on the track before emerging at Owen’s Corner six days after leaving Kokoda. From Owen’s it is a short bus trip to Bomana Cemetery, the largest war cemetery in the Pacific and the final resting place for 3779 killed during the campaign.
From Bomana we took a quick tour of Port Moresby, enjoyed fresh food, a warm shower and a change of clothes before they would let us in to the bar for a well-earned SP Export beer. Just as we started to feel smug about our achievement of trekking Kokoda over six days we found out locals regularly do it in four (without shoes, modern hiking equipment or porters), Australian wheelchair athlete Kurt Fearnley did it in twelve days and the record for Kokoda to Owen’s stands at 17 hours 20 minutes.
Trekking Kokoda is a most rewarding and challenging experience – One I highly recommend.
After the success of Operation Anode, in which the Regiment participated, the Solomon Islands government is seeking to restore the economy. The islands lack much of the tourist infrastructure you will find in Fiji, and have the problem of malaria, but they do have some drawcards and are trying hard.
The major drawcard is that on the main island of Guadalcanal and nearby Florida was fought the battle that marked the end Japanese southward expansion in the Pacific. Here the United States first Marine Division with elements of the Second, and ultimately the US Army with local coastwatchers, a scratch US Air squadron, the US Navy and Royal Australian Navy fought a battle in the Jungle as fierce as any ever fought. The Marines, still equipped with weaponry left over from World War 1 were more than a match for the fanatical enemy. The islands are littered with the flotsam of war from Sherman tanks to Coca-Cola bottles (lots of ‘em). Battle sites are readily accessible from high quality accommodation available in Honiara. Some of the site examination involving short (5 – 10 km) walks on Solomon Island trails, a boat crossing of Ironbottom Sound and even some snorkelling. Honiara has a public Wi-Fi service and there is 2G/(some)3G mobile telephone coverage (you do have to buy a local sim card). The temperature, in August, was a balmy 30 degrees.
As for the drawbacks, you simply tell your GP where you are going and he or she will organise the necessary anti-malaria pills; then take some tropical strength insect repellent (non-aerosol) and make certain you apply it regularly just like you do at home to keep the flies away. As for the roads, well, I did see one 50 kph sign in Honiara, but I do not think I ever travelled faster than 20 in a vehicle; there were major pot-holes (more like cross-road ditches) every 50-100 metres to negotiate.
I had been taken there courtesy the Solomon Islands Tourist Bureau as a representative of Military History Tours in the hope that we would organise tours. We have, I will be taking a tour there 5-10 August 2014. We will be mainly covering the WW2 battle sites, and the group will primarily be US citizens, but if anyone would like to re-visit where they patrolled last year, happy to have you along. At $3,295.00 per person including air fare, the trip will not be too expensive. CLICK HERE for details. You might even get the chance to give a tow to locals who run out of petrol between islands like the group I was with in 2013 did.
I will also be involved with taking a group to South Africa, Gallipoli and Rabaul in 2014. In 2015 in addition to the lottery tour in 2015, there will be a Centenary of the Bloody Angle tour in August. A tour of Israel to be at Beersheba on 31 October 2017 is also being planned. Details will be available shortly.
NX134347 HILARY LYALL BURTON (Len Koles and Reg Gunn). Passed away in Quirindi on 10 Sep 2013 aged 91. He was born in Manilla and enlisted in 2nd Fd Regt in Sept 42. He transferred to AIF in the same year. He served in B Sqn 1st Armd Regt (RNSWL). He embarked for New Guinea in 1943 and in May 1945 he left for Morotai then onto Borneo where he saw active service with his two brothers, William James (the eldest) and Wilfred Henry who died of wounds at Balikpapan, Borneo on 2 July 1945.
MICHAEL JOHN (JACK) BOOTH (Major RFD, ED) (Editor) of Parramatta 22 October 2013 aged 77. Jack was a stalwart supporter of the Regiment and Association, having served when the Regiment was equipped with Centurions and M113s from the 1950s ‘till the 1970s; later he served with the RCSC at Ingleburn. His service included a battlefield familiarisation tour of Vietnam. I specifically remember him as the OC of my Driving and Servicing course in 1975, then as the Admin Officer when I was at RCSC in 1982/83. When he retired from the Army, Jack did not miss a Regimental Dinner.
DAVID CRAVEN (Jill Craven) of Claremont, Tasmania 13 September 2013 aged 91. For many years my father, David Craven wrote this column, paying tribute to his departed comrades, including many who were close mates. So it is with a mixture of pride and sadness that I now write about his involvement with the Lancers.
David served almost continuously on the Committee of the RNSW Lancers Association from the first meeting of its re-formation in 1946 until December 2009, almost 63 years. The positions he held included Treasurer, from 1946 to 1954 and Secretary from 1982 to 1995.
David is probably best known to most members for his role as editor of the Lancers’ Newsletter, for many years until 2001. He authored most of it himself and typed it on his old typewriter (which was propped up at one end on blocks of wood because the carriage return was broken) with the help of much White-Out. He called in reinforcements for envelope-stuffing parties, which some readers may recall.
David also fulfilled various other roles for the Lancers:
In 1993 Major General J.D. Keldie nominated David for an in Order of Australia award. As well as his services to the Lancers and to the RAAC, he cited David’s extensive voluntary work in support and advocacy of people with an intellectual disability, and in his local church. Although the award was not granted, Dad felt very honoured by the many glowing tributes in appreciation of his work.
Dad liked things to be done well. He pushed for marchers to wear the regimental tie and black beret on Anzac Day since this was not then common practice. One year, he bought a large batch of berets. The closest available colour was navy. No problem, he set about dyeing them at home in the laundry. For some reason he chose a time when Helen was out. Unfortunately there was a bit of a mishap, resulting in black dye staining the laundry and kitchen lino and hall carpet. Mum was forever grateful for those berets. She had wanted to change the carpet for a while! (My sister, Julie, also remembers sewing on the colour patches.)
Dad was very proud of the 1st Australian Armoured Regiment and The Royal NSW Lancers and believed firmly in the bond that linked Lancers. By nature a trusting and gregarious person, he saw any Lancer as a potential mate.
Dad was a good organiser and excelled especially at bringing people together. Through his roles as Secretary of the Association and editor of the newsletter precursor to ‘Lancers’ Despatch’, and by dint of his own enthusiasm, he helped many members rekindle their interest in the Association and their links with colleagues. He extended this same welcome to members’ widows, and did what he could to help them feel supported and included.
John Howells commented recently, in an email, advising members of Dad’s death,
“His legacy is the strong Association we have today.” That is exactly what Dad would have hoped to achieve, and I know he would have been very touched by those words.
For me the abiding memory of his involvement with the Lancers is his love of the Association and the camaraderie he shared with his colleagues. In his own words, “In war service and since, I have appreciated the close and lasting friendships with a lot of good men.”
NXI22890 NEVILLE ALFRED KlNGCOTT (Bert Castellari) of Merrylands 3 September 2013. Neville was one of the troops who were transferred from the 2nd Army Tank Battalion to the 1st Tank Battalion (RNSWL) when three under strength tank battalions were merged to make one full strength unit in 1942. He was an active member of the Lancers' Association for many years and marched regularly on Anzac Day. He was 91. Neville was active in everything with which he was associated. He had a prepared, concise CV, headed 'Getting To Know N.A. Kingcott JP’ which read in part:
"... joined 1st Australian Army Tank Battalion and did a mechanics course and made a corporal. I got out of tanks and looked after jeeps ... departed overseas 1943 to Milne Bay, then Finschafen ... departed overseas 1945 for Morotai then Balikpapan operation ... I was known as 'mad spanner" as I always had a spanner in my pocket "
One of Neville's enlistment forms shows him as having a "4th year motor construction certificate".
On personal background: "I was born In Epping and went to Eastwood Primary School. I was a choir boy at 5t Albans Church of England, Epping. In 19491 married Norma (Horsley), built a house at Laura St., May's Hill. We had one son (dec) 3 daughters. Norma died after a long illness. 1971 I married Marie Hosking who had lost her husband. Marie had 3 sons and 2 daughters. Now we have 14 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren."
Then it's "Work: 1949 I started Mays Hill Hire Cars and 1954 started a funeral business in Blacktown, 'Guardian Funerals'. I sold the hire car business In 1979 and the funeral business 1981 and retired. Could not settle. Two years later I worked as a court officer at Parramatta District Court ... there for five years. Then went to Trivett Classic, Parramatta, and delivered spare parts. In 2000 I had a slight heart attack and had to retire."
And that was not all. Neville joined the Lions Club at Parramatta in 1962 and was president twice and treasurer for four years, among many other achievements In that worthy organisation. He became a life Member in 2005. Marie Kingcott has written to us saying that Neville's mate was Merv Canham, a popular member of B squadron. (Merv died a few years ago).
"This year we were in Canberra for the Lions' Convention." Mrs Kingcott wrote. " Neville found his uncle's name (Neville was named after him) on the Wall of Remembrance at the War Memorial: (Nevile Edmonds enlisted on 19 August 1915, and embarked on the 'Berrima' on 17 December 1915 for the Middle East. He served in the 30th Battalion and was killed in action in France on 17 February 1917.)
After the war's end in 1945 Australian troops often became friendly with Japanese prisoners who had been given useful work around the camps. Mrs Kingcott says she still has a bag a prisoner made for Neville to keep his tools in.
Australian troops in the occupation force in post war Japan made friends very quickly with the locals despite the non-fraternisation rule (which was ignored by everyone). Nobody drew pay. The black market trade with the cigarettes, chocolate and other items needed by illegal traders kept everyone financial.
There were similar experiences as the war was moving on in New Guinea. Ron Pile writes in "New Guinea Operations - 1943-44" about an incident on 11 January 1944:
"To fill in time before retiring to the tank harbour area I moved along the bank of the Kapuqara examining Japanese stores. On a ledge above a two metre foot rock fall lay the body of what appeared to be a dead Japanese. On scrambling up the loose rocks the man came to life, jumped to his feet with his hands in the air and called out, ‘Don't shoot! Don't shoot!’ After a few moments he lowered his hands to his belt and while I was trying to see if he was pulling a grenade or a weapon on me he dropped his trousers. He had a brief attack of diarrhoea. After presenting me with a wristlet compass we re-joined the 2/17 Bn. He remained my responsibility until handed over during mid-afternoon.
Lt Alex Beatty, Bn Intelligence Officer, had joined the advance. At one stage we used our semaphore training to pass a message for Lt Col Simpson to a company commander on the ridges using hats for flags. Lt Beatty and myself shared our lunch with our Japanese guest. He stated in broken English, ‘Gif me on our wif a dictionary. I speaketh good English.' I often wish I had taken his name and address and wonder what happened to him. Was he one of the 230 Japanese killed following the Cowra breakout, or did he make it back to Japan? Is he still alive?"
Neville Kingcott brought this pass home with the signatures of 1AR members on the back as a souvenier. Does anyone recognise their own signature on this?
RICHARD LUKE (Peter Luke) of Doonside passed away 5 September 2013 at Doonside nursing home aged 79. He was a part of the regiment from 1953 to 1960 as a nasho attached to the RAEME. He was the father of Mark and Peter Luke who served 19 and 8 years respectively with the regiment.
FRANK PEDERSON (Bert Castellari). We were notified of his death in August. All efforts to find out more about Frank have turned up very little. Frank lived in Labrador, Queensland. Newsletter No. 22 of March, 1998, records that Frank and Gwen Pederson attended two Tweed Heads reunions of the 4th Armoured Brigade group in 1997. The reunion had a good roll up. 29 in June and 26 in November Newsletter No 25 of March, 2001, shows receipt of a response sheet from Frank apologising for being unable to attend the annual reunion.
NX123602 Lieutenant COLIN JAMES WATSON of Laurieton 25 August 2013 (Bert Castellari).
Shortly after David Craven's last story was sent to Lancers' Despatch news was received of Colin Watson's death. We do not have the exact date but it was apparently about the same time as David's.
Colin was born on 21 November 1922, at Tamworth. We know he was part of the unit's change over to the AIF at Greta in July, 1942. He became troop leader of 3 Troop, C Squadron, which was in action early in the Huon Peninsula campaign in New Guinea.
Major Norman Bent, in an article which was included in Ron Pile's 'New Guinea Operations - 1943-44', recalls a particular action involving 3 Troop: " ... the Japanese withdrew towards Wareo and the tanks of C Squadron turned their attention to the Wareo track where D Company of the 2/32nd Battalion had been cut off, short of water, food and ammunition."
D Company was on Pabu, described in the unit history as "a hill feature commanding the Wareo track. This track was the enemy's escape route to the coastal track from the areas north of Sattel berg and several desparate attempts had been made to drive off D Company."
The account continues: "It was decided to give tank support to the 24th Brigade in an attack that was designed to clear the way to Pabu and to secure the ground north to the Wareo track. Lieutenant Colin Watson was ordered to take his 3 Troop, along with one tank from 2 Troop, to North Hill." The history goes on to describe the difficulties the tanks met in the advance with the Japanese forces eventually pulling out of the area.
Ted Fallowfield, now living in Wagga, a member of 3 Troop, was sorry to hear of Colin's death. "He was a well liked leader in all of C Squadron," he said. Allen Chanter, who was in A Squadron, said Des Bird, now departed, also a member of 3 Troop, told him that Colin "had a grocery store, somewhere between Narromine and Bourke. In later years he retired to the coast."
Colin's last known address was in Laurieton. We were unsuccessful in inquiries there.
A REQUEST TO SURVIVING WORLD WAR 2 MEMBERS: Send some notes about yourselves to Bert Castellari. Your name, date of birth, service number, squadron, where you served, your life since discharge, family, job, anything you feel would be of interest..This would be held on file for reference if needed.
The detail we would like to have about departed comrades is becoming more difficult to get, if you can add to what we have about any individual we would like to hear from you. Contact: Bert Castellari, 9 Byrnes Place, Curtin, ACT, 2605, or email .
Thank you all very much for your assistance in supporting the Museum and Association financially in the 2012/13 financial year. Our records (and they may not be perfect, human data entry has been involved) show the following supported by donation, the Association:
Bryan Algie, Max Bell, Arthur Bulgin, John Burlison, Ron Cable, John Carruthers, Bert Castellari, Leslie Cranney, Bob Gay, Guy Graham, Reg Gunn, John Haynes, Graham Hodge, Albert Martin, Alfred (Snow) McEwan, Don Morris, Alan Stewart, Norma Swadling, Gloria Warham.
and the following the Museum:
Bryan Algie, Max Bell, John Best, Berrima District Historical and Family History Society Inc, Botany RSL Sub Branch, Arthur Bulgin, John Burlison, David Brown, Ron Cable, John Carruthers, Bert Castellari, Robert Dodds, John Emmott, Tony Fryer, Bob Gay, Mark Gibson, Guy Graham, Reg Gunn, John Haynes, Graham Hodge, Albert Martin, Alfred (Snow) McEwan, Don Morris, Alan Stewart, Norma Swadling, Gloria Warham.
Yes we really do need your financial assistance. No amount too large, no amount too small.
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Membership of the RAACA NSW is free to all applicants over 75, and only $20 per annum or $50 for THREE years for those who are younger. The RAACA NSW newsletter complements Lancers' Despatch, providing news of events in the wider corps community. If you wish to join the RAACA and receive the newsletter, drop a line to the Association at Building 96, Victoria Barracks, Paddington NSW 2071, or visit the website: www.raacansw.org.au.
"A regiment is not solely the men who presently comprise its strength. It is an entity stretching back in time to its beginnings. It is all the men who have served in its ranks, with their traditions and achievements. The serving unit, like the tip of an iceberg, may be the only part you see, but underneath, supporting it, there is a great deal more." (These words, often quoted, were introduced by our Patron, Major General Warren Glenny, AO RFD ED, during his term as 2IC of 1st/15th Royal NSW Lancers in the 1960s)
Lancers' Despatch is Published in February and August each year by the New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881 and the Royal New South Wales Lancers Association. All material is copyright. John Howells - Editor, New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated, Linden House, Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, PARRAMATTA NSW 2150, AUSTRALIA, email@example.com Tel: +61 (0)405 482 814, Fax: +61 (0)2 4733 3951.
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