The Royal New South Wales Lancers

Doug Beardmore A Lancer's Story

DOUG BEARDMORE Douglas McDonald Beardmore (NX101255): Doug died in April 2016 aged 93. He was a cheerful, good humoured, amiable member of 1AR (RNSWL), the last surviving crew member of "Ace," the now fully restored Matilda which was part of A Squadron in its service overseas.

The other speakers were Doug's niece, Dr Megan Le Masurier, and Peter Johnson, whose family were Doug's neighbours for 30 years. Early in his military career Doug was given the nickname "Keeneye." Everyone who knew this remembers it but no one can recall how he got it. Perhaps there is still a reader who can enlighten us.

Doug contributed two very detailed pages about his time in A Squadron to "Memories of A Squadron," published in 2000. He recalls a training run at Morobe with "David Craven's and my head" sticking out of "Ace's" turret. A Department of Information cameraman filmed them as they went past. "No big deal. We didn't stop. Later on Dave found out his dad and mum happened to see it on a newsreel. It was about the time of the Sattelberg operation … they got concerned for our safety… little did they know we were far from that action in an idyllic tropical location …" (Maybe this film clip is still in the records – somewhere.)

Peter Johnson opened his speech with a heartfelt tribute: "The strongest impression that emerges from the last 30 years with Doug is that he was a Good Man. He eschewed institutional religion and I couldn't say if he was spiritual, but what I can say is … he was true to his wife, he was true to his country, and he was true to his fellow man and woman."

Peter continued: "Those who knew Betty (Doug's wife) would know that she was a lovely lady but of fragile health and disposition… Doug supported Betty in this difficulty and its consequences all through their married life. We never heard Doug complain about the constraints it placed on them."

Peter quoted from military history on the South West Pacific campaign adding: "Despite the horrors of war Doug formed some life long friendships with his crew… (after demobilisation) one of the crew was showing signs of post traumatic stress … he was having trouble getting his life going again. Doug and another member of the crew went up to the north coast and lived with him for a month working with him on repairing his house. After the war Doug again responded to his country's need and to a great opportunity by going off to join the Snowy Mountains Scheme where he worked for a number of years. I believe he was a fitter and turner there."

Megan recalled Doug's time in the Snowy Mountains: "He talked of camaraderie, living in a tent in Cooma and improvising body building equipment to stay fit. On his weekends off Doug travelled up to Sydney to dance at clubs like the Trocadero where the big bands played. "That was where he met Betty. After Doug died we found a bag of old letters that Doug had written to Betty from the Snowy. It felt like prying to read them but they contain the seeds of a love that lasted for 60 years. Doug was nature's gentleman. I will miss his wisdom and how he made me laugh."

A Squadron had a number of gifted entertainers and they were mobilised when the squadron was withdrawn from action before returning to Australia. They have been mentioned in these pages before - the squadron's concert party in which Doug and Wal Kenaly composed new words to popular songs. Some of them are listed in "Memories." Philip Edwards recorded that "Doug ‘Keeneye' Beardmore seemed able to compose lyrics like a butcher making sausages.

Eg based on a 1939 hit tune: 'Thanks for the memory', of being on hygiene, of burning the latrine, of being hit by a clod of shit from exploding diesoline, how lovely it was."

Doug wrote in 'Memories' about the post war months as a member of the rearguard in Balikpapan and Morotai. "We stayed behind when the unit was split up - some went to Japan with the BCOF, most to peace keeping duties in the Celebese Islands, some went home.

We built a smaller camp down on the beach. Our main job was to take a truck to the big prison compound and pick up our Jap POWs who worked about the camp... we treated them better than they did our POWs. There was very little maintenance carried out on the tanks apart from starting them up occasionally... we built a three metre long sailing boat, "found" the sails on the beach and we had a lot of fun sailing in Balik Bay. We called her 'The Mistake.' We also built a motor boat which went really well. The motor came from an abandoned Packard car. Then the Indonesians fought for independence against Dutch rule.There was quite a bit of fighting but fortunately for us they left us alone. Then one morning a signal came from Australia to destroy the tanks. The tanks that were driveable were taken to a high ridge and as each one went over the top they were set on fire. Most ended at the bottom of the gully on top of each other but one tank must have been put into emergency low gear as it slithered about the bottom and then started to claw its way up the other side still burning until the fire hit the fuel line and it exploded. What an awesome sight. So that's what happened to your tank that you had so lovingly looked after, sweated and cursed over yet worried about for so long. A sentimental time."

Doug went from there to Morotai where Japanese were being tried for war crimes. "Those that were found guilty were executed by firing squad. I was detailed to the firing party … the firing squad was very hush hush and we were all sworn to secrecy. The procedure was there were six rifles, one or more had a bullet, the others blanks, and you chose one at random. The prisoner was brought into the compound, blindfolded and a marker was placed over his heart which you were to aim at. The officer was to use his revolver if necessary. On the day of execution I was thankfully taken off the squad and put on standby. I mention this as one of the unusual jobs the regiment was called to perform."

Doug was a member of 1 troop A Sqn 1 Armoured Regiment AIF. He was a crewman of 'ACE'. In the photos below he is notated # 3 on top of the tank.

Bert Castellari

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