The Royal New South Wales Lancers

Lancers' Despatch 21

Lancers' Despatch

Bi Annual Journal of the
Royal New South Wales Lancers Association
The New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881
No 21 - August 2011

 Coming Events     Editorial    The Regiment    Project ACE  Regimental Birthday    ANZAC Day    Reserve Forces Day   The Boer War  
 Funny Ships and Tanks   45 Years   Departed Comrades    Support Required  Thank You  Help    RAACA    Electronic Response Sheet  
 Download Response Sheet     Download Printable Newsletter   

Photos and text by the editor unless otherwise noted - historic photos are from the Museum's collection.

 Coming Events go to top of page

Regimental Reunion

The annual Regimental Reunion will be held at Lancer Barracks, Sunday 6 November 2011 from 11:00 - 14:00.  Luncheon will be inexpensive, and drinks at mess prices.  Please let us know if you intend to be there for catering purposes.

Officers' Events

If you served as a commissioned officer in the Regiment, make certain you make it to these functions:

What: Officer’s Mess Cocktail Party
When: Saturday 13 August 2011 from 7pm
Where: Officer’s Mess, Parramatta
Who: Current and Ex-Serving Officers and their Partners
Dress: Black Tie or Regimental Bow Tie

The point of contact for these events is the Deputy President of the Mess Committee (Designate), Major David Brown, who can be contacted on 0451 181 520 or via e-mail .  If you need a Regimental Tie or Bow Tie, visit the Museum Shop.

 Editorial go to top of page

Just a couple of editorial notes. You will note that Lancers’ Despatch is a little smaller this time; this enables us to put it in a standard size envelope, cutting postage in half. We have also had to stop taking credit card payments. Bank charges became prohibitive ($12 a month, $3 to process every transaction and 4.5%). OK if you are running a business, but not enough to cover the donations we received by card. Those who are cybernetically savvy can use PayPal, there is no monthly fee, and transaction/interest charges are much lower. We can of course still take cheques, money orders and cash.

The Museum and association are going well.  Reports in this edition convey the enthusiasm those who have served in the Regiment have for the Regiment and the comradeship of those they served with, in some cases many years ago.  Museum volunteers continue to work tirelessly, the article on Project ACE conveying in-part the approach; Ian Hawthorn for fundraising and Joe Tabone for project management (and as treasurer of the Museum) deserve commendation.  Work on the collection is of course much broader, it includes work by Jack Best to preserve our uniform collection, Ray Williams digitising our photographs, Michael McGraw to prepare audiovisual displays  all deserve recognition; as does the work by Bill Prosser, Gordon Muddle and the vehicle crews to keep our vehicle collection operation.  Dianne Barnes should also be mentioned for keeping our guides in check, ensuring we are open every Sunday.

We are also finding that off-site displays by the Mobile Museum are keeping our face public; and now that we are getting retirees into our core of volunteers, we are able, with the king support of the Regiment, to open on any day for tour groups.

Thanks very much for our contributors: Major David Brown, David Craven, Sue Day, Reg Gunn, Ian Hawthorn, Terry Hennessey, Major Rob Lording, Kerry McConnell..

 The Regiment go to top of page

Major Rob Lording - Regimental 2IC

In June the Regiment received confirmation that Colonel Lee Long RFD has been appointed as the Honorary Colonel of the Regiment with effect from 1 Oct 2010. Colonel Long has already attended a briefing at the Regiment and will attend a meeting of RAAC Honorary Colonels at Puckapunyal in August. Lee was CO of the Regiment 1988 to 1990 and has just retired from Qantas. He is a fitting successor to Major General Warren Glenny AO RFD ED who has served the Regiment well as honorary colonel for almost as long as can be remembered.

MAJ Tony Devine has completed his temporary assignment as the Regiment’s Operations Officer (OPSO) and will shortly deploy to the Solomon Islands on the Combined Task Force headquarters for Operations Anode (Rotation 25). He has been replaced by our ARA member, MAJ David Neal, who has just returned from a deployment. 

Three other Lancer Officers will be deploying on Anode 25. Captain Alex Richards will be working as the Assistant Operations Officer in the Headquarters; Captain Conrad Walsh will be 2IC of the company group and Lieutenant Dylan McDonald will be commanding a platoon.

Another group of about nine  members of the Regiment have commenced full time duty and will undergo mission specific training in preparation for deployment in early August on Op Anode. I’ll provide some further information on the members and the deployment in the near future.The remainder of the Regiment is well into the training cycle and will be participating in a Combined Arms Training Activity at Singleton in October.

 Project ACE go to top of page

Ian Hawthorn (Photos by Joe Tabone)

With a lot of money allocated from Museum funds and financial support very gratefully received from Jaycar, the NSW Heritage Office, RSL sub-branches and a wide range of individual donations, we are delighted to say that the Museum has sufficient funds to at least get started on the restoration of 1 Armoured Regiment (AIF) (RNSWL)’s Matilda tank named ACE.

As you are probably already aware, ACE had been abandoned in a paddock outside Moss Vale, in the NSW Southern Highlands, for the best part of 50 years, until miraculously rediscovered by a couple of Museum volunteers in 1997. On the death of Les Betts, then Secretary of the Lancer Association and the driver of ACE during World War 2, the early enthusiasm and energy to restore ACE slowly evaporated. The job was always going to be very challenging and the money required beyond the Museum’s reach. ACE continued to age, this time under a tarpaulin in the School of Military Engineering Museum’s compound, instead of under a thick covering of moss and undergrowth in the Southern Highlands.

Fast forward over a decade. The Museum was undergoing an assessment of the heritage significance of the entire collection, carried out by a professional military historian and a Museum Consultant. Among many other items somewhat forgotten and passed over through the years, the assessment revealed the national significance of ACE. That was the start of Project ACE. A couple of months ago the tarpaulin came off, and Joe Tabone disappeared inside to start the long job of stripping out the hull.

The Sapper volunteers at SME are now voicing concerns about being taken over by the Armoured Corps, as increasing numbers of Lancer volunteers appear on the scene to help with the work on ACE. In fact, we cannot be more grateful for their good humoured help and advice, as well as the specialized equipment they are happy to lend us, to help remove long seized up bolts and to lift components well beyond the strength of us willing but, sadly ageing Lancers.

Spearheaded by Joe Tabone, whose backside can more often be seen poking above the hull than his head (he’s clearly inspired by the old saying, “head down and tail up”… or other coarser variations on the theme), progress to date has been encouragingly quick. The fighting compartment has already been fully stripped, sand blasted and given a protective undercoating. Theories abound as to why so many of the nuts, bolts, screws and other items that have to be loosened appear to be in such good condition, notwithstanding that they have sat under a soup of water, gum leaves and other assorted vegetation for the best part of half a century. All the theories are probably a load of rubbish, but they help to pass the time of day and encourage the sort of banter and abuse that has been traditional over the years whenever a group of soldiers (and retired soldiers) are working on a piece of military equipment.

As at the time of writing progress in the engine compartment, as in many great military battles, has been temporarily slowed, as much by the oddities of British engineering design as by seized nuts and bolts. In recent weeks a casual observer would have thought we were trying to get steam up in a steam powered battle tank. Closer observation would have revealed a gaggle of blokes wielding oxyacetylene torches, parts of a Matilda Leyland engine glowing red hot and plumes of pungent steam rising as penetrating oil was applied to the still glowing metal. A particularly mad (but oh so helpful) Sapper volunteer, who knows about these things, assured us that this was the ultimate way to release a couple of particularly obdurate bolts. He was right, but not until after any exposed hair on his and the other volunteers bodies had been neatly singed by a sudden flare up of the hot (very hot) oil. The OH&S police would have had a field day. However “Tenax in Fide” ultimately prevailed and, with bated breath, we are about to remove ACE’s gearbox. After that, hold your collective breathe because next will be the engines. Having a close inspection inside both the gearbox and the engines will tell us much about how long and how costly full restoration is likely to be. If it all proves too difficult (which it won't), we could always try growing vegetables in the tightly compacted soil/mulch, which still sits in the engine well!

Something we’ve all known for a long time – tank crews are a messy lot, and a good thing they are. While stripping out the fighting compartment we have unearthed a mini treasure trove of long lost ration items (tins of tobacco, cigarette papers, concentrated chocolate), the remains of a 1945 newspaper, assorted spanners and tools and a variety of spent rounds of ammunition. Talk about cleaning out your vehicle on hand over! These will all form part of the eventual ACE museum exhibit. Once we’ve removed the engines, I’ve little doubt that we will add to these finds – who knows, perhaps an English spanner or two, lost back in the 1930’s when ACE was on the production line. Project ACE is not just about physical restoration; it’s also about the stories that are unearthed as restoration proceeds, and the moments of musing about the original owner of an old spanner – and what eventually became of them many years ago.

A recent development has caused some delay, the SME Museum workshop has been closed due to Occupational Health and Safety issues. We are at present desperately trying to find a site where the work can continue - if you have a spare work area let us know!

The fine work to clean and paint ACE's interior

 Regimental Birthday go to top of page

The Regiment celebrated its 126th Birthday in March 2011with another superb parade at Lancer Barracks where a drumhead service dedicated new plaques on the Regimental Shrine to those 283 lighthorsemen of the Regiment who paid the ultimate price in World War 1, and to three Lancers recently killed in training.  WO1 Gheoghan deserves congratulations for a truly memorable parade, and the padre, for doing a great job on his first ceremonial.  The parade was hosted by the new (then yet to be announced) Honorary Colonel, Colonel Lee Long RFD, Major General Glenny was farewelled as Honorary Colonel.


The Regimental Birthday Parade

The Regimental Officers' Dinner always part of the birthday celebrations was well attended with our local federal politicians, Julie Owens and Philip Ruddock in attendance.

 ANZAC Day go to top of page

The post war contingent about to march proudly on ANZAC Day 25 April 2011

 Reserve Forces Day go to top of page

(includes some photos by Sue Day)

Reserve Forces Day does not always hit the spot, but this year it did. Yes I know that we had to stand in the hot sun, and a number of us dropped (my thanks to Bill Prosser who detected I was wavering (8 mg of warfarin a day is not a good mix for standing immobile in the sun) and saw me to a seat). The presentation of medallions to the partners of those who served was very well received. With Len Koles off patting tanks in the antipodes, I had the honour as acting Association President to make the presentations; it was pleasing to see how these small tokens were very much appreciated by the recipients.

Organising the medallions was quite something, great credit to Bob Joseph, once RAEME for a job well done.

We also need to thank our stand-in standard bearer, Eric Drew.  The standard is usually carried by Ross Baker, our association secretary. Ross broke his toe a few days before the parade and we needed a last minute stand-in, Eric volunteered, and did such a good job, we would be very happy to have him lead us in the future.

You should note that if your partner missed-out on a medallion, you can buy them one from the Reserve Forces Day Website.

With the theme in 2012 being the 110th anniversary of the end of the Boer War, we can expect a great deal of focus on the Regiment.

 The Boer War go to top of page

Those of you who have been following the work to have a National Boer War Memorial constructed in ANZAC Parade Canberra will be pleased to know that a design has been chosen. Only two steps remain: the design has to be approved by the powers that be, in this case a committee including representatives of the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition; and then the simple task of finding the money to have the memorial constructed. Until final approval, details of the design cannot be released. I can possibly be excused for revealing that we will all of course be a little disappointed as no lances are included; there was a former Hunter River Lancer on the selection panel, he must have been over-ruled.

In order for the memorial to be approved, and some government funding secured, the National Boer War Memorial Association has to be able to display community support. This has certainly been achieved. 900 relatives have registered their ancestors on the Association website and many more have made contributions to the website, and provided financial support. Boer War day has been commemorated across the country, with a number of communities taking the opportunity to upgrade their memorials. In Perth Australians of South African descent laid a 'Reconciliation Wreath' indicating again that Australia honours all those who served their country; including those who once might have been enemies.

At Parramatta, we have successfully commemorated the anniversary of the treaty that ended the conflict (Treaty of Vereeniging 31 May 1902) with well attended exhibitions put together by Ian Hawthorn.

To quote the National Boer War Memorial Association website: "On the afternoon of Sunday 26 June 2011, the ACT Committee of the National Boer War Memorial Association and the Chief Minister of the ACT conducted a formal ceremony to plant trees of a South African species (Widdringtonia cedarbergensis - Clanwilliam cedar) at a designated Boer War Grove at the National Arboretum. This was an event where trees were planted by the principal guests Ms Katy Gallagher MLA, Chief Minister of the ACT, Mr Mauritz Lindeque, Political Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission at the South African High Commission and Rear Admiral Allan du Toit, AM, RAN representing the CDF and the military advisors from Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Senior ADF officers, federal and local government representatives, and service organisation representatives including Rear Admiral Ken Doolan AO RAN (Rtd), National President of the RSL, Colonel John Haynes OAM for the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Association, and Lieutenant Colonel John Howells RFD for the Royal New South Wales Lancers Association, and descendants of those who fought and in some cases made the ultimate sacrifice in the conflict also participated."

In 2012 the Reserve Forces Day theme will be Australian involvement in the Boer War.

The Boer War is of major significance to the Regiment. During the annual camp in the Easter of 1898 there was some discussion as to how training standards could be raised. The result was a project fostered by the CO Colonel Burns to send a squadron to the UK to train with British regular cavalry. Things moved quickly, the NSW government initially did not support the proposal, so the Regiment embarked on a range of public funding activities, displays, fetes and raffles. Every volunteer was required to come up with twenty pounds, a very considerable sum for the time; the equivalent of six month’s pay as a trooper, today translating to around $20,000. On 3 March 1899, almost 100 men, a kangaroo and an emu under the command of Captain Charlie Cox embarked on the SS Nineveh for the adventure of a lifetime.


The training was long and intense. The keen young men with bush riding and shooting skills already honed in part-time training, were into what were recognised by their English peers as fine cavalry. They trained as light cavalry, lancers. Light cavalry were lightly equipped, their horses generally of a lighter build than the heavy cavalry. They were trained to engage infantry; the lance was originally introduced to the British Army in the early 1800s due to its capacity to break into infantry squares. By 1899 the infantry no longer formed defensive squares, but when in the open they did not yet dig in as soon as they paused, and in the right terrain, under the right circumstances, they could be scattered and chased down by lancers.

With the training finished in early November, this squadron was the finest trained body of mounted men that Australia could muster. Whilst they were in the UK, there was much speculation that war would break out in South Africa. The autonomous Boer Republics to the north east of Cape Colony and west of Natal had been restricting British economic activity in an attempt to exploit the gold and diamonds in their soil, for themselves. The British had been reinforcing the garrisons in Cape Colony and Natal with regular troops. Captain Cox, was showing the political capability that would eventually see him a senator; negotiating to have his squadron employed if war were to be declared.

The troops got ready to depart. On 9 October 1899 the day Boer forces marched into Cape Colony and Natal, there was a concert to farewell the Lancers in London, an ‘actor’ in Lancer uniform sang a new song ‘Soldiers of the Queen’ with lyrics composed in honour of these antipodal soldiers of the empire, and applied to a march Leslie Stuart composed  for the opening of the Manchester Canal. The following day they departed for Sydney. Captain Cox had cabled the CO asking for permission to disembark and fight in South Africa should a state of war exist by the time they got there. By the time the squadron arrived in Capetown on 2 November a state of war did exist; it had been declared on 11th. Cables were waiting for Captain Cox authorising his squadron to take part. The orders from the Premier Sir William Lyne forbade anyone under 20 from serving; some managed to get around this.

In all 72 Lancers landed to take part in the conflict, and were soon catching and breaking local cape ponies, some so small that the taller soldiers had to tuck their legs up when the going got rough. They had their lances, swords and some carbines, but almost all other equipment had to be obtained locally.

Only a fortnight after disembarkation, the squadron had journeyed 500 km to the north east by train. It was only possible to equip a single troop – 29 soldiers commanded by Lieutenant Osborne. On 19 November 1899, these soldiers became the first Australian soldiers to see action in an Australian unit, at Belmont, a short distance from de Aar. Not far to the east on 16 January 1900 at Colesberg, Trooper Tom Morris a contractor from Singleton became the first Australian soldier nominated for the Victoria Cross. At Slingersfontein a few kilometres to the south on the next day, 17 January 1900, Corporal Fred Kilpatrick a schoolteacher from Carlingford was the first Lancer to die in battle.

Then came a string of actions, the full list of engagements the squadron took part in is:

  • Belmont -23 November 1899
  • Grasspan – 25 November 1899
  • Modder River – 28 November 1899
  • Magersfontein – 11 December 1899
  • Arundel – 13 January 1900
  • Reit River - 12 February 1900
  • Klip Drift – 13 Feb 1900
  • Relief of Kimberley – 15 February 1900
  • Dronfield – 16 February 1900
  • Paardeberg – 18 February – 19 March 1900
  • Poplar Grove – 7 March 1900
  • Driefontein – 10 March 1900
  • Bloemfontein – 12 March 1900
  • Brandfort – 29 March 1900
  • Ventersberg Road – 10 May 1900
  • Vanwkyrist – 27 May 1900
  • Doornkop – 29 May 1900
  • Valkheuvel Poort – 3 June 1900
  • Diamond Hill - 11 and 12 July 1900
  • Olifantsfontein - 11 and 12 July 1900
  • Lang Kloof – 27 August 1900
  • Swarts Kop – 27 August 1900
  • Wartburg Hills – 13 September 1900
  • Barberton – 13 September 1900
  • Lake Chrissie – 16 October 1900
  • Mooiplaats – 18 October 1900
  • Ermelo – 19 October 1900
  • Reitvley – 19 October 1900
  • Bethel – 20 October 1900
  • Rooipoort – 22 October 1900
  • Winklehadt – 23 October 1900
  • Kaffir Kuil24 October 1900
  • Witkop – 25 October 1900

The lancers found they did not use their signature weapons a great deal, the troopers carried lance sword and carbine. The lance was used, trooper (Later Colonel) Vernon noting some 30 kilometres from Kimberley during the relief operation that: 'The 9th and 16th Lancers charged up the valley, five metres between files, and we followed, passing many bodies from which the lance had not been extricated. The charge had cleared all opposition, and from then on I never saw a position held if the intention of a lance charge was shown.' However, when soldiers on foot could take cover, rapid firing long range rifles would pick off a charging horseman at some distance, smokeless powder ensuring they could fire again and again. The sword was of no effect, needed only should the Lancers engage similarly armed cavalry in a melee, the mounted sword fight that resulted when cavalry forces clashed.  The Boers like the Australian mounted infantry did not fight on horseback.  They used the bush tactic of riding to the site of the fight, then dismounting and to engage as infantry. Such tactics were soon used by the Lancers and all other cavalry, with one man in four taking the horses allowing the other three to dismount and fight on foot. Add cavalry scouting tasks and the light horse were born; from 1903 lances and swords were used for ceremony only in all Australian mounted units (now called Light Horse - at least until 1918, but that is another story).

The squadron was reinforced three times, the first reinforcement draft under Major Lee, who was to take command, having left Sydney on 28 October 1899 before the Aldershot men had landed in Cape Town.

The squadron was withdrawn in November 1900, the first detachment arriving in Sydney on 6 December, just in time to put on a good show as part of the Federation celebrations on 1 January 1901. The New South Wales government had asked for them to be returned for this purpose. In all 171 served with Lancer Squadron, others served with other units including the 5 Bn Australian Commonwealth Horse (119 with the 5 ACH); in all 331 Lancers saw service in South Africa.

We were diddled on the battle honours front. As we had committed a full sub-unit, the principal engagements should have been awarded as separate battle honours as they were to British units. The Australian government, and military establishment, however, decided against establishing tall poppy units.  All Australian units who sent soldiers to the South African campaign were given a single ‘South Africa’ honour, with a date that noted the time such soldiers were in combat. The Regiment was awarded the honour ‘South Africa 1899-1902’ in recognition of those who served. For similar reasons a request for the 'high faulting' title ‘Kings Own Australian Lancers’ was also not supported by government.

South Africa was the start of many of our military traditions, the first units created by the new federation, the ‘Australian Commonwealth Horse’ wore a badge that was to be a forerunner of the rising sun, and incidents at Wilmansrust and Spelonken gave rise to the tradition where no Australian Soldier has suffered capital punishment for their actions in war since 1901.  The war trained the Australian commanders who were to play great roles in World War 1, Cox who was to enter Jerusalem at the head of his 1st Light Horse Brigade, Chauvel who commanded the Desert Mounted Corps, Elliot and Glasgow who were to be the architects of the turning point battle at Villers Brettoneux in 1918 to name but a few.  In round terms, 16,000 Australians served in Australian uniforms and a further 6,000 in imperial units; there were 1,900 casualties of whom 500 paid the ultimate price, 250 in battle, 250 from disease.

Much is made of the Spelonken incident, where dirty deeds by Morant and Handcock could be used to justify serious punishment, though in civilised society nothing can justify capital punishment and there was political influence pushing for punishment to be severe; a negotiated peace was entrain. It is, however, because of what happened at Wilmansrust that the justification for not having capital punishment in the Australian armed forces lays. The incident did not involve the Regiment, it occurred in June 1901, quite late in the war. A recently arrived contingent, the fifth from Victoria was encamped at Wilmansrust about 100 kilometres east of Pretoria. They were under the command of a British officer also new to South Africa. He ordered that the camp be set up in accord with King’s Regulations where picquets were widely spaced, and soldiers slept in bell tents with their arms stacked in central locations. A large party of Boers slipped past the picquets and crawled toward the camp. The fight that followed was murderous, 18 killed and 42 wounded, more casualties that any other Australian contingent, and in a single engagement. The Victorians were part of column under the command of General Beatson, he appeared to be deeply disturbed by the incident, and on a march later in the same week was reported as saying: "I tell you what I think. The Australians are a damned fat, round shouldered, useless crowd of wasters . . . In my opinion they are a lot of white-livered curs . . . You can add dogs too". On 7 July, when the Victorians were ordered out on another operation, Trooper James Steele was overheard by nearby British officers to say: "It will be better for the men to be shot than to go out with a man who called them white-livered curs". For this apparent refusal to do as they were ordered, Steele and troopers Arthur Richards and Herbert Parry were arrested, given a summary court-martial and sentenced to death. British supreme commander Lord Kitchener intervened quickly. He commuted the sentences (Steele to do ten years gaol, the others to do one year each). The convictions were eventually quashed by a court of inquiry.

The war was at its height when our nation federated, it was a war where the soldiers on both sides can be proud that they put their lives in jeopardy for what their governments asked, and that is all we can ask of anyone. It was a war, however, that after September 1900, degenerated into a guerrilla campaign, where conventional forces have few answers. The answer in this case was a scorched earth policy where families were taken off the land and concentrated in camps, their crops and livestock destroyed. The camps were not well organised many, mostly women and children, dying of malnutrition and disease. These tactics did force a negotiated settlement, but they are not something to be proud of.

The memorial when it is completed in Canberra will be one for all those who fought in the conflict on either side and have a family connection to our nation.

And if you really want to experience the environment of the war, why not join me on the 110th Anniversary of the Boer War tour of South Africa in May and June 2012, with our dollar high, now is the time to travel.  Click Here for details.

(References: the Regimental History, Martin Buckley's Sword and Lance, National Boer War Memorial Website and Murray)

 Funny (Peculiar) Ships and Tanks go to top of page

Terry Hennessy OAM

The Balikpapan armada comprised about 100 vessels of all shapes and sizes. It was Australia's largest marine assault since Gallipoli.

Among the vessels was one which semi-submerged itself to release amphibious personnel carriers which ferried Army units to the beach. 

There was a rocket launching ship which fired a barrage of rockets and made a frightening racket. 

The most popular ship in the American fleet was one which made and delivered ice cream to the American crews.  Some Australian naval crews also received a share.

As well as the standard matilda tanks we also had flame throwing tanks which we called "frogs", a covanter which could throw a bridge across a narrow stream and a matilda fitted with a bulldozer blade.

A two man Japanese tank bore a large "BEWARE MINED" sign.  There was also a gleaming black Packard car with a similar sign.  A couple of commandos drove them away shortly after we landed.  The Military Police eventually caught up with the commandos and confiscated the car.  The little tank in now at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

 Forty Five Years' of Service go to top of page

Kerry McConnell

On Friday 8 July 2011, WO1 Mick McConnell attended the Chief of Army Office at Russell, ACT where the Chief of Army, LT GEN David Morrison AO, presented him with his 2nd Federation Star and a Certificate of Appreciation for 45 years exemplary service with the Australian Army Reserve. Accompanying him is his wife Kerry.

 Departed Comrades go to top of page

David Craven

NOEL O'BRIEN of Belmore, on 6 June 2010, aged 87. Known to all as Sorlie, he came to us with the intake from 3rd Army Tank Bn in February 43 after earlier service in the Militia. He was posted to No.2 Troop A Squadron as a loader/operator, and served in New Guinea and Borneo. Sorlie was an entertainer and took part in concerts which were held occasionally. He was well known to all in A Squadron and others as an· outgoing and likeable personality - traits he maintained in post war years. Along with fellow committee member Bob Simpson, he organised the first planned reunion of the Lancers Association at Lancer Barracks in 1966. He had joined committee in the early period of re-forming after WW2, and was one of the longest serving members on it through the years, including as a Vice President from 1999 to 2003,the year of our final reunion at Balmain, where he laid our wreath along with that of the Bowling Club, as was our custom. It was his last Anzac Day attendance, being subsequently not well enough to join us. For many years he was unofficial RSM at Anzac Day Marches, to get our group in order, and also in our big group for the Freedom of Entry March in Sydney for the Centenary celebrations in 1985.

In civil life post war he was a hardware salesman in Sydney city stores. He contributed a very good article in Lancers Despatch issue of February 2002. For many years Sorlie was on committee of Belmore RSL Club, as editor of their news letter 'The Bell', and as their pensions officer. As well as helping their members with disability pension claims, he also assisted some of our members.  His last years were in a nursing horne with the condition of dementia. Fellow 2 Troop mate Bill Halliday kept contact with Sorlie as he was able, and passed on word of his death. Sorlie will certainly be very well remembered by readers who knew him.

REGINALD MEAD of Prospect, SA, on 5 June 2010, aged 89. Reg was a fltter and turner craftsman with 1st Australian Armoured Regiment Workshops. He enlisted in December 41, was discharged in November 45, and saw service in New Guinea. The unit was part of the 4th Armoured Brigade, formed at Singleton in March 43, under command of Brigadier Denzil Macarthur-Onslow and its role was to provide tank and vehicle maintenance support to our regiment, which it did very well in all our actions. It is interesting to note that in 1983 we established contact with their active South Australian group, invited them to be part of our Lancers Association. We kept contact by exchanges of newsletters, and with phone calls and letters with some of their members through the years since. Their main contact person was Reg Mead, who provided and distributed their newsletters, and organised their Anzac Day March and reunion, with their final one being in 2009, discontinued due to diminishing numbers. It is an interesting story, and Reg was a very active leader. During his war service and through the years he was known as "Dasher". Post war Reg owned and drove a taxi, and also operated a large delivery truck. He and his wife Betty had 66 good years of happy marriage. He was much involved and well regarded in community activity, evident by a large attendance at his funeral in North Adelaide.

KENNETH LORRAINE, of Blackwood SA, in May 2010, aged 92. Ken was also in 1st Australian Workshops as a Staff Sergeant in the MT Section. After service with Militia in SA, he joined AIF in July 42 and was discharged in November 45. He had service in New Guinea and Borneo. Ken was President of the SA Workshops group, and worked closely with Reg Mead, adding some comments to those of Reg in their annual newsletter. I had no personal contact with Ken, by mail or phone, but I well knew he was highly regarded by the Workshop group. I am grateful to Jim Thomas, a Sydney member of Workshops, for advising of the deaths of Reg and Ken. 

ARCH POILE, of Broke, in mid-July 2010, aged 89. Arch joined the Ourimbah Troop of 1st Light Horse Machine Gun Regiment in 1938. He served in New Guinea with our 1st Aust Tank Bn AIF as a Corporal Cook in B Squadron. He contracted a skin disease which led to his discharge, by then a Sergeant, in 1944. Post war he was a farmer on his property at Broke. A couple of years ago he had a severe stroke, which put him in a wheelchair, and a nursing home at Singleton. In early July he sadly suffered another stroke which led to his death. Good mate Geoff Morris attended his funeral, where Singleton Sub-Branch of the RSL conducted an RSL graveside service. Geoff said it was well done, and he took part in the service. He also said that of the 30 plus original members of Ourimbah No 2 Troop B Squadron, he and Les Chipperfield, of Curumbin, are the only surviving members. Arch regularly came to our Gosford annual reunions. His widow Olive still lives in Broke, and to her we send our condolences.

TREVOR DARBY of Killara, was born on 23 March 1921, so he was probably 89. He joined our Militia regiment around early 1940, with army no 6585. Later, after we became AIF it was NX123599. He gained promotion through the ranks to be commissioned as Lieutenant and Troop Leader of No 5 Troop A Squadron.  As OC of tank "Alamein" his troop had actions in New Guinea, in the advance in support of 9th Division along the Rai Coast in December 1943. Our History mentions him there several times, commencing on page 261. For reasons unknown he didn't serve in Borneo in 1945, with his deputy Sgt Tom Cameron as acting Troop Leader there. Trevor was discharged on 13 April 1946. Post war he regularly attended our reunions through the years, the last being around 2000. We aren't aware of any contact since. He was a likeable, competent and quietly spoken man, well his troop and army friends.

W T (Bill) ARMSTRONG of Manyana NSW, was born on 8 July 1922 so he was probably 87. He also joined our Militia Regiment with army no 156299. It may have been with the big intake at Rutherford in December 1941. Becoming AIF his no was NX122846. He was a tank crew trooper in A squadron, possibly in 4 Troop. He served in the actions in New Guinea , but he was not at Balikpapan in 1945, for reasons unknown. He was discharqed on 16 May 1946. Although he is remembered, we don't have any post war record. After perusing our attendance lists in newsletters, we find he didn't attend reunions or kept in contact. If a reader can tell us more we would like to hear.

JACK CURRAN of Port Macquarie NSW, 22 September 2010.  Jack is survived by his wife Doreen, four children and seven grandchildren. (Doreen Curran)

 Seeking Lancer Comrades go to top of page

Alf (Snow) McEwan and Reg Gunn were aged 18 when they joined the Lancers, then the 1st Machine Gun Regiment (RNSWL) at Rutherford NSW on 29 December 1941. Four years later in December 1945 when menbers of B Squadron 1 Armoured Regiment (AIF) (RNSWL) they parted at Balikpapan, Borneo 65 years later their friendship was renewed when they met again on Queensland's Gold Coast in February 2011. Alf (07 5531 1380) and Reg (07 5607 0390) would appreciate hearing from comrades of B Squadron and friends from the Regiment.

Reg Gunn (left) and Alf McEwan (right, wearing glasses) in 2011

 Thank You go to top of page

Thank you very much to those who made a donation to the Association and Museum in the past six months. Records show we received donations from:

For the Museum: Bill Balchin, Max Bell, Botany RSL Sub Branch, Valerie Boyton, John Burlison, Ray Butterfield, Rod Button, Joy Canham, Jim Caradus, Bert Castellari, Alan Chanter, David Craven, Doreen Curran, James Dick, Ted Fallowfield, Ian Frost, Bob Gay, Jim Gellett, Reg Gunn, Jonathan Herps, Barrie Hodgson, Therese Holles, Frank (Snow) Irvine, Norma Jamieson, Jack Lamb, Keiran Macrae, Joan McDonald, Alfred (Snow) McEwan, Marcia Newton, Doug Pollard, Eddie Polley, Margaret Reid, Jack Rolfe, John Roseby Margaret Sheppard, Judy Spadaro, Alan Stewart, Dorothy Watkins,

For the Association: Bill Balchin, Max Bell, Arthur Bulgin, John Burlison, Rod Button, Bert Castellari, Alan Chanter, David Craven, Ted Fallowfield, Ian Frost, Bob Gay, Reg Gunn, Jonathan Herps, Barrie Hodgson, Norma Jamieson, Jack Lamb, Keiran Macrae, Joan McDonald, Alfred (Snow) McEwan, Jack Rolfe, John Roseby, Alan Stewart.

Those who made donations to the Museum will have received an official tax receipt in the mail.

   HELP! go to top of page

Yes we really do need your financial assistance.  In particular the Museum, where running costs are biting heavily into our pockets.  No amount too large, no amount too small.

Donations to the Museum and association are now possible securely using PayPal  from your credit card or PayPal account:

Click Here to activate the donation form.  Donations to the Museum are tax deductible.

Don't forget your memorabilia, the online shop also has secure payment facilities using PayPal. 

Click Here for the Museum Shop.

If you have time, the Museum also needs volunteers, any skill or skill level. Turn up any Sunday after 10:00, and you will be put to work.

 Support Required - Army Museum Sydney go to top of page

The Army Museum Victoria Barracks, Sydney needs a volunteer treasurer.

The Criteria to be considered when volunteering is as follows::-

  • Become a member of the Museum
  • Be elected (appointed honorary treasurer) as a member of the AMNSW Foundation Board.
  • Attend 6 Board meetings per year on a Thursday for up to 2 hours.
  • Reconcile income/expenses.
  • Be the point of contact with the local Defence Credit Union at Victoria Barracks Paddington.
  • Prepare a report for the Board meetings.
  • Manage the financial interests of the Museum foundation other duties as agreed to with the Board.

If you are interested, please contact Graham Fleeton on 0412 399 693 or email:

 RAACA go to top of page

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

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"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,  Tel: +61 (0)405 482 814, Fax: +61 (0)2 4733 3951.

© New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881; Linden House, Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, PARRAMATTA, AUSTRALIA
Postal Address: PO Box 7287, PENRITH SOUTH NSW 2750, AUSTRALIA; Telephone: +61 (0)405 482 814 Email:
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