The Royal New South Wales Lancers
|Lancers' Despatch 38|
Bi Annual Journal of the
Royal New South Wales Lancers Association
ABN 50 361 228 724
The New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881
No 38 - February 2020
Lancers Advance to Pretoria The Commanding Officer's Son John Blackberry Remembers Manggar The King's School Flag
Departed Comrades Thank You Help RAACA NSW Online Response Sheet Download Printable Newsletter
Download SAMRA Newsletter Download Ironsides 2019
Photos and text by the editor unless historical, submitted to the editor without attribution or otherwise noted. Thanks very much to all contributors.
Fellow Lancers, since the last Lancers' Dispatch, the Association and Museum have been involved in a number of significant activities and events. Some are detailed further in this edition. A few of the highlights included the participation of our Matilda "ACE" at a closing ceremony of the Greta Army camp. It is significant in that during WW11 the Regiment, trained with Bren gun carriers and Matildas before deploying to New Guinea. I find Ian Hawthorn's article on this event informative and humorous.
In addition another highlight was the Lancer Reunion in November. It was pleasing to see many of the old and bold turn up on this occasion, it brought back many fond memories. On the same day as the reunion two other significant events occurred. The first, was at The Kings School where a parade was held by the school to commemorate the centenary of the return of a blue and white banner the school presented to the Regiment when it deployed to go to the Middle East. There is an excellent article on this event in this edition. I need to acknowledge the hard work by Catherine Pearman, a former member of the Regiment, for the original idea, the planning and execution of an excellent parade.
The second event that occurred at the reunion was the unveiling of a bronze plaque on the door of the OR's Mess. The original hand painted sign had faded and peeled off, the Association decided to replace it with a more suitable, permanent sign. So there is now a fitting commemoration to one of the Regiment’s finest NCOs, WO2 Frank Tattersall who was killed in an APC accident in Singleton 23 June 1986.
Unfortunately shortly after the reunion, the Regiment lost another of its finest NCOs, Sgt Peter (Harry) Halloran. Harry served in the Regiment for nearly forty years and was known to many of you. He was a qualified instructor on many trades and was a passionate trainer. He understood the importance of training soldiers and was passionate about his preparation and delivery. Harry was a mentor to many young soldiers and young officers including myself. He had a dry wit and an easy going style which endeared him to all those who worked with him. Harry was a mans man, a soldiers soldier, a professional trainer and a great mate. As was evident by the large number of Lancers who attended his funeral he will be greatly missed.
It is also with great pleasure that I note Parramatta Council gave Ian Hawthorn an Australia Day award for his contribution to the Museum. Well done Ian!
In closing I would like to thank the members of the committee, the vehicle crews and the guides for their hard work and dedication. I am also proud that the Regiment has stepped up in its support during the current bushfire crisis.
Expect the following:
• Tuesday 3 March 2020 - Regimental 135th Birthday Parade - 1930 Lancer Barracks Parramatta. (Advised 7 February 2020.)
• Thursday 26 March 2020 - Regimental Association and Museum Annual General Meetings ONLINE due to COVID-19 concerns.
• ANZAC Day, Sydney Saturday 25 April 2020. - Please note that the 2020 ANZAC Day March has been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. You can join the StMarys RSL Sub-Branch commemoration online HERE.
• Regimental Dinner July 2020 (day will be advised when known).
• Lancer Barracks turns 200 in 2020. This event will be commemorated. Watch this space.
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew White, Commanding Officer
As I write this now the Regiment are at an unprecedented level of involvement in support of OPERATION BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20. This has seen majority of the Regiment called-out under previously unused legislation for an indefinite period of time to support emergency services workers and local communities against the bushfires across NSW and the ACT.
Our involvement has included a PMV SQN under MAJ Reynolds providing mobility and muscle to clear routes and help response staff access difficult terrain. We are also preparing under MAJ Baczocha an Emergency Support Force (ESF) – a sub-unit sized element that will be attached to a Task Group providing general duties across the AO. Finally we have a number of our team in individual support roles within HQ JTF 1110.
MAJ Reynolds also had the opportunity to brief Senator Jim Molan at the fire front.
Prior to the current Bushfire response the Regiment had a busy second half in 2019. This saw a Cavalry Scout Troop attached to 2nd /14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry) during EXERCISE TALISMAN SABRE 19 alongside various individuals in staff officer positions. Special mention to CAPT Goodwin and his support to HQ 1 DIV.
In September the COMD 5 Bde asked the Regt to lead the Bdes contribution of OPERATION TARTAN OCEANIA 19. This was the ADFs response to the Royal Edinburgh military Tattoo (Sydney). The Regiment provided the HQ function under the CO, LTCOL White and many of the individuals within the Support Force (SUPFOR). Additionally the Lancer Band made contributions during the four performances at Sydney Olympic Park. Members of the OP valued the chance to work with militaries and performers from 13 other countries. As part of the international engagement the CO spent time in Fiji and Tonga working with our near neighbours.
Not long after this the Adjutant, CAPT Mitchell deployed to the Middle East. Then we farewelled the Unit's RSM, WO1 Dale Kirkman and Chief Clk SGT Tim Hite.
I have also been pleased to welcome in 2020 our new OC A SQN MAJ Derek Hayles, RSM WO1 Wayne Chetcuti, TRGWO WO2 Clint Johnson, RQ WO2 Ian Gibson and Chief Clerk SGT Peter Herbert.
Editor's Note: For those who consider that of recent date the Regiment has not been honing its vehicle and weapon skills, a short glance at the 2 minutes and 31 second video below will assure that is not the case. A great wrap video from the Regiment's Heavy Weapons and High Explosive training weekend earlier in the year (Ex Lancer Impact 19). Soliders conducted dismounted and mounted live fire serials. Excellent video by Trooper Trindorfer.
Photos and video courtesy Department of Defence.
Our Museum, whilst weathering a few storms, continues to go from strength to strength.
Ian Hawthorn, the Museum's Vice President was responsible for quite a substantial innovation. In 2019, Ian, following on a number of visits to Lancer Barracks and Museum by groups of school students developed the concept that such visits would be of greater relevance to students if they were tied to the school curriculum. Ian then worked with a number of teaching professionals to develop a special program to reinforce what students learned in the Year 9 syllabus about World Wars 1, 2 and the transition between.
The first to go through the program was year 9 at Arthur Philip High, prompting this testimonial:
"My Year 9 students had an amazing learning experience at the Lancer Barracks. The museum is divided into relevant rooms based on Australia's military involvement, and packed full of interesting artefacts for the students to look, touch and read through. Activities developed by the museum were engaging, linked to the curriculum, and utilised the objects on display well. The real highlight though for everyone was the opportunity to climb all over and get inside real military vehicles (like a Matilda tank) from WWII, as well as trying on uniforms from WWI & WWII. Being able to physically interact with objects from the past was a real eye-opener for my students and prompted excellent discussions on the day and back in the classroom. Highly recommended for Year 9 or 10 students during, before or after their study of the two world wars." D Martin, History teacher at Arthur Phillip High School.
We already have two school visits booked for 2020.
My impression as a guide on the occasion was the intense interest in weaponry and vehicles on display; and the almost glee with which the youngsters crawled in and out of the recently restored ACE Matilda Tank.
Our visitor numbers are good, one visit was of particular interest. A visit by those of the 1959 Army Apprentice School intake who now live in the Newcastle and Sydney areas was organised by Mick Henrys, it took place on 12 December 2019. Numbers were not as high as anticipated, many now volunteer for the RFS. Mick's father had been a member of the permanent staff at Lancer Barracks in the 1940s and 1950s. He was born whilst his family were occupying the C1899 Staff Sergeant's cottage, then a married quarter, and now the officers' mess. We were grateful that Major Alex Baczocha, President of the Officers' Mess Committee, was able to spare the time to open it for the tour group. Not only did they get to see the Guidons and the historical items unique to the building, Mick gave us a history lesson on what the rooms were used for at the time of his first childhood memories.
Our valiant volunteers have also succeeded in renovating the first floor rooms, re-carpeting, painting and re-furbishing the displays. Great job!
The Museum supported the Regiment by our vehicles holding ground at a parade on the evening of 20 August 2019 to commemorate 104 years since the attack on 7 August 1915 from Pope's Post at the head of Monash Gully, Gallipoli where we lost 86 killed, 61 wounded; the darkest day in the Regiment's history. Greg Peddler took the photos of the ceremony.
The Museum also supported the Parramatta community by taking part in the annual 2020 Australia Day celebration at Parramatta Park.
Do note that we are gradually working through the bureaucratic maze impeding approval of the overhead protection essential to preserve our vintage A vehicle fleet. Our president Len Koles valiantly pursuing the issue in the hope of a timely conclusion as our vehicles and their protective and expensive to replace tarpaulins deteriorate.
At years' end the Museum Volunteers had a great Christmas function catered by our ever present and highly capable volunteer, Dianne Barnes.
We have a strong regimental association. This newsletter lets everyone who served know about what is happening, those who have registered their email address with us get to know about key events in real time, we are on Facebook, march together on Anzac Day and have a great annual reunion. Sadly we also need to gather for occasions where members have passed away.
This year's reunion at Lancer Barracks on Sunday 3 November 2019 was a great gathering of those who find great comfort returning to the place where many an evening was spent gaining the skills of life, a launching pad for many adventures. Check-out the photos below and see who you can recognise. Yes there are many more wrinkles than there were on those faces when they crewed M113s and Centurions. On the day, we also dedicated a plaque to better identify the Tattersall Club (yes there are not 11 grades of WO in the Australian Army a non-intentional foundry error) and took custody of a diorama depicting the National Boer War Memorial, Canberra.
Once again, representatives of RAAC Regimental Associations and the RAAC Corporation Ltd Advisory Board met this time in Tamworth NSW on 12 October 2019 for the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Corporation Annual General Meeting. The Lancers' Despatch editor and Association secretary represented the Royal New South Wales Lancers' Association.
On Friday 11 October, Major Wayne Clarke of 12/16 HRL hosted delegates on a visit to the light horse memorial; a most impressive structure.
At the meeting, the state of the corps report was delivered by Warrant Officer Class 1 Grant Gripske, RSM 12/16 on behalf of the corps RSM. An audio recording of this delivery can be accessed by using the controls below.
There was considerable discussion on the possibility of utilising PMV (L) Hawkeyes and PMV Bushmasters to carry cav scouts to provide light recon given the mass of the new Boxer vehicles and problems with deployment beyond Australia. This light recon capability being provided by ARA and ARES components of the Corps. It was also noted that when cav scouts are provided to round-out ARA units, ARES PMV crews are also provided.
Next year the meeting will be in Melbourne.
80 years ago, war clouds were gathering in Europe, threatening once again to consume Britain and her Empire in a global war. Australia, like most democracies in the world, was ill prepared. Many initiatives were hurriedly taken, including the selection of a large area of open country to the West of Newcastle, to become the new Army Camp at Greta.
As the clouds formed into what was much like a category 5 tropical cyclone, Greta Camp became home for large numbers of young Australian soldiers and Units, including the Royal NSW Lancers. While at Greta, the Lancers transitioned from a Motorised Machine Gun Regiment to one of Australia's new and hastily formed Tank units. The Regiment initially trained on Bren Gun Carriers while waiting for the delivery of Matilda Infantry Tanks from Britain.
Fast forward 80 years, to the weekend of 9th/10th November 2019 and the old camp, long abandoned, played host to a major public event called, "Return to Greta". Our first old fogy to return was the Museum's internationally acclaimed Matilda Tank named ACE. Now it was highly appropriate that a Regimental WW2 Matilda Tank, first Regimental tank off the landing craft at Balikpapan, was part of this historic gathering, where the Regiment was first introduced to its wartime Matildas. However, it was a "bit of a stretch", otherwise known as a significant military "porky", to claim that ACE itself was returning to Greta Camp. ACE is more likely one of the Regiment's replacement issue of Matildas, issued on the Regiment's return from New Guinea and before they left for Balikpapan. Still, never a good idea to let an inconvenient fact get in the way of a good story.
In 1949, the Army left Greta for good. The Camp became one of the largest post war migration camps in the country, housing large numbers of refugees, displaced people and those migrating from war ravaged Europe. Amongst their number was our second old fogy, our very own Museum President, Len Koles. In those days, if you can believe it, Len was a snotty nosed little lad running around in grey shorts and, no, he didn't have a foul-smelling pipe clenched in his teeth (if he did, his mother didn't know about it). The provenance of his existence at the camp was discovered by the writer, who found some graffiti in the Cyrillic alphabet on one of the remaining building flag stones which, loosely translated, read "Comrade Lenny was here" (true or just another military porky? I'll leave you, the good reader, to decide).
Back to 2019, and the celebration also embraced the 70th anniversary of the migrant camp. It was therefore a big occasion, graced by the presence of the Governor General and his wife. The weekend was full of displays of military vehicles and equipment, military and civilian aircraft fly overs, bands and musical and singing performances by a large number of cultural groups, representing Central and Eastern European countries which formed the bulk of the post war migrants sent to the camp.
Ground was held by a collection of historical military vehicles for the opening ceremony, including the Museum's ACE. As befits the international acclaim for the fully restored ACE, His Excellency the Governor General and Mrs Hurley, who was presented with a coffee table photo book of ACE's restoration (excellent idea, George Glass), spent significant time inspecting the Matilda and talking to the crew of the day.
One of the best features of "Return to Greta", was the size of the property, a very large part of which was given over to the assorted, tracked military vehicles present. Ace and crew therefore spent a happy weekend driving around, kicking up clouds of dust like a young colt in a paddock. It was actually hot, dry and the dust was not much short of awful – just depends on which side of the bed you got up from in the morning. A few hours after ACE was loaded onto a truck and taken back to Parramatta, fire broke out at Greta, and the only road into the camp was closed - phew, close run thing.
There will be no more "Return to Greta" events, because the property has been sold to a developer. In the not so distant future, you can expect large numbers of people to again be living on the site - but they won't be European immigrants. A great weekend but, bye bye Greta.
Text: Ian Hawthorn; Photos: Michael Mcgraw
Ben Harkus was a Lancer who has a particularly poignant story. It is a story of sacrafice, a soldier that lies now in an unmarked grave in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Ian Hawthorn did a piece sponsored by the NSW Government "Heritage Near Me" programme...
Lancer Squadron spent March and April 1900 in Bloemfontein. Typhoid was rife, Corporal Harkus and Trooper Fetting passed away from the infection and are now buried at President Brand Cemetery in Bloemfontein.
By 6 May 1900, the advance northwards from Bloemfontein to the Transvaal capital of Pretoria was well underway. A Boer defensive position based on a line of kopjes north of the Zand River, about 130 kilometres north of Bloemfontein, 20 km south of Ventersberg on what is now the N1 was encountered.
The Lord Roberts planned to envelop the Boer position. On the left flank, the cavalry including our of New South Wales Lancer squadron would loop behind the Boer lines. On the right flank, the infantry would force a crossing of the river to allow another mounted infantry force to cross and get behind the Boer positions in an encircling manoeuvre.
The 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry, by this time reduced to approximately half strength through disease and casualties in earlier actions, kicked off the advance on the right. Before dawn on 10 May, the Canadians advanced towards the river. It soon came under heavy fire by a strong party of Boers in the river bed.
The strength of the enemy position was not anticipated. There were over 800 Boers firing from protected positions. Against them were no more than 70 or 80 Canadians firing from the open veldt. The Canadians were on their own for several hours, until the threat created by the other British crossings forced the Boers to break off the engagement.
The Lancers, carrying their signature weapon in the only war they did so, were of great use. The lance was useless against entrenchments and less than effective against other mounted troops; it could, however, strike down men on foot especially when scurrying away in withdrawal - unable to find fire positions. Our squadron thus found itself to the fore once the enemy had decided a position's role to delay the British advance had been fulfilled.
If you would like to stand on the shore of the Zand River and contemplate the action of our regimental ancestors CLICK HERE for details.
Ref: Canadian War Museum Online and the Regimental History. Map Courtesy Google.
Colonel James Burns was the Regiment's fourth CO commanding from 2 Sep 1897 to 30 Jun 1903. He was a founding member of K Troop Parramatta rising quickly through the ranks trooper, 6 June 1891; captain, 23 July 1891; major, 9 January 1896; lieutenant-colonel, 17 September 1897. He was 51 had founded (in 1883) and was head of Burns Philp when appointed CO. He had observed combat in a visit to France during the Franco-Prussian war 1870.
Promoted colonel, he commanded the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade from July 1903 to January 1907, when he retired because of age (61). Through his efforts and financial aid, Lancer Barracks were developed, detachments of the Regiment attended Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and trained in the UK in 1899; he also helped the 1899 detachment take part in the Second Anglo-Boer War. His deep personal interest in his men and 'quiet gentlemanly manner' made him an exceptional CO.
James and his second wife Mary had three sons and two daughters, he also had a daughter with his first wife Susan. In 1914 James was 68, too old to be recalled to the army for active service in World War 1. His three sons all served. His eldest son James survived and was managing director of Burns Philp from 1923 to 1967. His second son survived but died in 1921 as a result of active service.
His youngest son Robert joined the 6th Light Horse Regiment AIF on 12 May 1915, he was 27, 183 cm tall 73 kg with fair hair. Robert saw service with 6LH at Gallipoli. He was commissioned on 27 January 1916 and posted to 4 Bn AIF. Promoted Lieutenant, he was posted to 14 Machine-Gun Company, 5 Division.
The 5th Division was mostly made up of new men with no combat experience. The seed 8th Brigade had seen some service at Gallipoli, as had men like Robert, who, concerned the Light Horse may simply sit the war out in Egypt, changed corps to go where the action was.
On 20 July 1916, he was part of the disastrous attack at Fromelles in northern France. 5 Div were sent to what was meant to be a "nursery" area, where units new to combat could gain experience before being committed to offensive action. The British ninth corps commander, Lieutenant General Richard Haking, however, decided to use the formation in a "diversionary" attack. The 9 October 1942 after which Australia controlled its own soldiers when they left our shores was far in the future. This was 1916. None of the men in the division had fought Germans before, the enemy's tactics had not been experienced. The Germans knew they were coming, activity behind our lines had given away any surprise. The water table was high, our men were behind breastworks (raised dirt and rock mounds), they moved to attack through sully ports (gaps in the mounds); gaps known to the enemy and targeted by their machine guns. When they fought their way through the wire and past the first line of trenches, they found the enemy had concealed themselves underground, rising up to attack the Australians from the rear whilst others counter-attacked from the front. Robert Burns like 5,513 of his compatriots did not survive. Allied soldiers killed in the area that was re-taken by the Germans, were buried shortly after the battle. The bodies were buried in eight 10 m × 2 m × 5 m pits.
The Germans recovered identification discs and personal effects from the bodies and passed these via the red cross to British authorities.
James Burns received the items indicated in the note below.
He was in the UK at the time, and as a retired colonel, Member of the NSW Legislative Council and Chairman of Burns Philip with a knighthood; a person of some note and influence. He was anxious to visit his son's grave and gain closure with confirmation Robert was dead and not a prisoner. The Australian war graves organisation in 1919 was not the best. Made up of soldiers not wishing to return home for various reasons with leaders of dubious capability, there was enthusiasm but little efficiency, Australians were known during the war to enjoy themselves when there was no battle; now the battles had ended grog and accommodating ladies were vices hard to avoid; in particular when their work involved disinterring the partly decomposed bodies of former comrades. Unaware or otherwise dismissive of the mass graves near Fromelles, a grave for Lieutenant Robert Burns had to be found. As 1919 progressed old age crept up on the colonel, his doctors recommended he go home to a warmer climate. He left an agent in the form of Burns Philip staff member Alfred Allen to follow up the matter, and check the contents of any grave, Alfred Allen had known Robert well. The Australian War Graves unit went so far as to bodgie-up a grave and fob-off Alfred Allen with photos claiming exhumation would not be possible. Alfred Allen was not deterred, he managed to use connections to have the body exhumed. The grave was found to be empty. The scandal resulting in some changes to the management and operation of the Australian War Graves unit (sounds like a bank in 2019).
Robert Burns was one of the 250 bodies of Australian and British soldiers exhumed from the mass graves, identified using DNA matches with family members alive today and interred at the new Pheasant Wood Cemetery between 2010 and 2017. Robert finally has a grave, his dad and immediate family, however, never did get to see it.
The grave is at Pheasant Wood (Fromelles Military) Cemetery Northern France Reference: Plot I, Row F, Grave 1
Ref: Missing in Action by Marianne Van Velzen (Allen and Unwin), the Regimental History and NAA Records.
Editor's Note: I do apologise for not having a photo of Robert Burns' grave for this article. I have been to the Pheasant Wood cemetery many times but was not aware of the significance of that monument to the Regiment. I will be back there in April 2020 and will get a photo. If you would like to join me and make certain I get the job done CLICK HERE.
When the 1st Australian Armoured Regiment went ashore on 1 July 1945, in support of the 7th Australian Division at Balikpapan, South Borneo. I was a Corporal Crew Commander of a "Matilda" tank in No 3 Troop, A Squadron. For a week before, the assault force had assembled at Morotai in the Halmaheras Islands. On 26th June an armada of more than 200 vessels sailed in battle formation for the five day voyage to Borneo. Our tanks, with crews, travelled on small open barges (United States Navy LCT Landing Craft Tank) and we prayed for fine weather and calm seas as freeboard was minimal.
It was a most uncomfortable sea journey in an open barge with no shelter, sleeping on the steel deck with the constant thumping of water against the ramp up forward.
However, the Americans fed us well and were generous with their cigarettes. For those who were not seasick, a hearty breakfast was supplied at 0400 on 1st July (F Day) after which we checked equipment, guns, ammunition, water, food, fuel etc. for the umpteenth time and looked towards the huge glow in the sky ahead.
At this stage I gave my driver a letter to my father and he gave me a letter to his widowed mother which we promised to deliver if either of us did not make it.
As we made our run to the beach the sea was a mass of small craft manoeuvring into their assault waves amidst the tremendous, ear splitting roar of naval fire and air bombardment. Hundreds of rockets suddenly plastered the 2,400 metres of beach which was a mass of smoke and flames. It was spectacular, awe inspiring, exciting - but frightening! The oil refinery at Balikpapan was ablaze from end to end.
As we got close to shore we closed hatches and sealed ourselves in, ready for a landing through an unknown depth of water. A snorkel pipe had been fitted days before to feed air to our engines. Suddenly, we grounded and the barge ramp dropped. We shouted "Good Luck" to each other and drove forward hoping the water was not too deep. We were in luck - it was only about a metre deep.
Then it was noise, confusion, men running, orders and counter orders, shouting, explosions, the radio crackling with excited voices, mostly not understood. As things sorted out, we followed the engineer sappers as they swept a track for us through the rubble and mud with their mine detectors. Soon we were off the beach and made our way inland.
During the next few days the regiment's tanks played a valuable role blasting enemy bunkers and strongpoints whenever the infantry were held up. There is no doubt that this support saved many lives.
Some tanks were equipped with flame-throwers - a dreadful weapon. I was glad that mine was a gun tank.
Then, on 5th July, my troop, having previously obeyed the order "Get off the beach, get off the beach", was resting in a small hollow, hungry, thirsty, dirty and tired, when we received orders "Get down to the beach! "
With five spare crew members and an engineer sapper weighed down with mine detector and demolition charges, we quickly moved to the beach and found three barges (LCMs - Landing Craft Mechanised) each capable of carrying one tank, with ramps down. In a few minutes we were away on a 20 kilometre journey along the coast.
Our orders were to proceed to the Manggar River area where our infantry had come under heavy fire from Coastal Defence (CD) guns protecting the airstrip. These guns were 120 milimetre calibre with a range of 10 kilometres and were set in concrete bunkers protected by heavy sliding steel doors. Naval ships and air force bombers had attacked these positions over several days without success. Now it seemed that we had the job.
We landed under cover of an artillery smoke screen, then moved 100 metres up the beach to the edge of the airstrip and stopped in line - ahead at what was thought to be a position of cover. We dismounted and removed the waterproofing canvas and tape from our engines. It was quiet - not a sound - too quiet.
Suddenly, we heard the swish of incoming mortar shells and everyone took cover in, or under the tanks. There is only 300 mm clearance under the 25 ton Matildas on hard ground; this was not hard ground. It was therefore not easy to wriggle underneath, luckily we were nearly all pretty skinny in those days. When this fire stopped, we went on with our tasks and our troop leader even began to make a billy of tea.
He didn't get to drink it, however, as we then came under fire from one of the CD guns. The first shell came screaming in and hit the leading tank in the centre of the turret, sheering off the 3 inch (76 mm) Howitzer barrel which I saw cartwheeling through the air for 50 metres.
The second shell hit the turret ring of the next tank and lifted the turret, which weighs 8 tons, out of its base, and slewed it from the 12.00 o'clock position to 9.00 o'clock. Two crew struggled out, both wounded, and fell over the side to ground level before the tank ammunition began to explode and fire took hold. They crawled under my tank.
I saw all this through my periscope (hatch closed!) and realised that my tank would be next. It was a difficult situation - not knowing where the fire came from we had no target; and as there were men sheltering under my tank I could not move it.
I therefore told my driver that we would dismount and get under too. When we did so, and tried to crawl under the rear of my tank we found that it was only possible to get head and shoulders under because of the number of men already there. At this stage, with a lull in the shellfire, we became aware for the first time that there was an observer concealed in a little thatched hut on top of an airfield control tower nearby. It was only 50 metres from us and we had remarked earlier that it would not be a good place to be in as it had two of its four legs shot away. We presumed later that the observer had not revealed his presence to us as he would not have wanted people looking up to him, or waving, thus giving his position away to the Japanese. He called out to us and inquired about casualties. We could then hear him speaking loudly transmitting target corrections by radio and this was quickly followed by navy gunfire which seemed to be just clearing our turret tops. Good old Navy! Give it to them!
Sadly, this upset the Japanese and we received more mortars forthwith followed by another shell from the CD gun which hit my tank, wounding me and three others. Things became a bit vague here but I remember two men helping me to the river bank 100 metres away - I never found out who they were.
Next, our casualties had to cross the wide Manggar River by crawling over steel mesh which the engineers had rigged under the knocked out bridge. This was not easy. The mesh hung in loops and was partially underwater in places, but it was better than our last position.
Somebody then tied a big shell dressing on my bleeding forehead, effectively blinding me in the process and as my eardrums had been ruptured, I was also completely deaf. The world had suddenly become silent.
By lifting my blindfold, I noticed that there were five other tank crew wounded and later learnt that our brave little engineer sapper had been killed under the leading tank. It was his 20th birthday. While I was lying on the ground awaiting attention, three interesting things happened.
• A 6-pounder anti-tank gun (one of ours!) appeared about 30 metres in front of us and began rapid fire at the Japanese gun positions. I wished that they would take up a firing position further away!
• A medical orderly tied a label on my shirt which said "Shrapnel wounds to head, completely deaf and very confused". After doing so, however, he persisted in talking to me, presumably asking questions. I could only point to my ears and my label.
• A corporal came along, looked at my label, smiled at me, patted me on the shoulder and handed me a letter. It was a letter from my father - a Gallipoli veteran who later was wounded in France in 1918. It seemed to me that he knew I was in trouble and although I didn't get to read it until the next day I could only wonder how it reached me amidst this chaos.
Then some jeeps and trailers arrived and our wounded, with some infantry chaps, began a long bumpy ride to the casualty clearing station back at the Balikpapan beachhead area.
On arrival, whilst lying on the ground awaiting attention, another interesting thing happened. Some military police marched about 20 Japanese prisoners down the track and halted them opposite us. As my troop had just had 30% crew casualties and 100% tank casualties, I was incensed that they should be looking at us in our sorry state.
Then another interesting thing happened. From behind us, about 10 or 12 Indian troops appeared, all pitifully thin and gaunt, but armed with pick handles. It was an identification parade allowing the Indians, who had been prisoners of war, to even a few scores with some of their brutal captors. Several of the Japanese were identified amidst much Indian excitement and given a good pasting with the pickhandles after which the Military Police called it off and away they went. The Indians were a mass of white teeth and smiles.
After this entertainment, I was patched up, head shaven and even got a mug of lovely sweet tea! Then lying on a stretcher in a nice big tent, I was thinking about all the events of the day when suddenly two chaps rushed in, grabbed me, dragged me outside and pushed me into a ditch. "Bloody hell! What's going on now?" It was an air raid and of course I couldn't hear the alarm or shouts to take cover. There was nothing to this raid however, and my abductors soon had me back on my stretcher, smiling and patting me on the back.
As I finally closed my eyes that night, the world was quiet for me and I remember thinking - this has been an interesting day!
Those involved in the Manggar action were:
No. 3 Troop: Lt Dick Steele, Sgt Murry (Murgy) Hobbs, Cpl John Blackberry, Cpl Ron Poole, Cpl Fred Goodsir, Tpr Paddy Dalziell, Tpr Bill Cunnynghame, Tpr Stuart Elrington, Tpr Ken Ireland, Tpr Harry Matthews Tpr Dick Maunsell Tpr Arthur Neilson Tpr Tom Nugent, Tpr Bert Pope, Tpr Martin Reidy
Attached: Sgt Bill Twine (No 4 Tp), No 4 Tp (No 5 Tp), Lt Jim Hartridge (Sqn Recon Offr) Spr " Tich" Russell (KIA)
Editor's Note: Soldiers of my vintage were privileged to know John Blackberry. He was a prominent member of the Lancers' association when I was serving in the Regiment, he was still on the Association executive when I retired. I knew he had been wounded at Manggar but it was not until David Craven collected the memories of many who served in A Squadron during World War 2 that I was able to read John's account of the action. I trust all readers find it interesting. John passed away on 12 August 2011 his service was presided over by Salvation Army Major Doug Watkins, Doug a medic in 1945 was one of those unremembered by John at the time, who helped him to the river bank.
The Regiment has been Parramatta's link to the Australian Army since 1891. The King's School, also located in the Parramatta area has over the years developed many links with the Regiment. Many old boys serving in the ranks of the Regiment. This was the case in 1914 when the 1st Light Horse Regiment was formed. A flag was made by the School representing the colour patch of 1LH and carried to Egypt; the colours, light blue and white matching those of the school. This flag was presented to Lieutenant Colonel Meredith (CO 1LH AIF and whose son was at the school) at Parramatta in 1914 and was with the Regiment in Egypt, Gallipoli and Palestine.
When the men returned in 1919, the flag was presented to the King's School and laid-up in the chapel, in commemoration of those who served. The flag had deteriorated during its time at the front but stood sentinel in the chapel for many years. The school made a short move from the CBD to Gowan Brae in 1962. The flag was lost. Maybe it was too fragile and disintegrated in the relocation, possibly it was souvenired by a removalist?
Thus in 2019, 100 years since the flag was originally laid-up, a replica was made, and with due ceremony returned to the chapel. The video and photos below tell the story. The drill was impeccable. The CO, LTCOL Andrew White, HON COL, BRIG Philip Bridie AM and our Association President, Len Koles were present as was COL John Haynes AM OAM Retd. The Australian Light Horse Association provided the mounted escort.
The event was planned and implemented by Catherine Pearman (nee Cox). Catherine, a King's School teacher is also a prominent Museum volunteer.
Our thanks to the King's School for photos and video of the occasion.
MAX BELL of Charlestown aged 97.
Max was born in Cowra on 3 July 1922. He joined the Regiment in 1939 (N156308) when he was notably the boxing champion at the B Squadron held an open-air Boxing and Wrestling Tournament at Turramurra 20 May 1939. Too young to be one of those able to join the AIF in 1939 and go to Egypt with the 2/2 MG Regt, Max served on in the then Militia 1MG (RNSWL) Regiment. He was re-attested on 30 August 1942 as a member of the AIF (NX143178) at Greta prior to the Regiment (now 1 Army Tank Battalion (RNSWL)) being designated an AIF unit.
Max served with B Squadron, he did not make it into action in New Guinea, sitting out the conflict at Milne Bay. He was part of the landing at Balikpapan on 1 July 1945, surviving the battle, he returned to Australia and was discharged on 18 January 1946.
Max was an active member of the Lancers' Association, reading Lancers' Despatch 'till he passed away. Max's passing was noted in the December 2019 Reveille.
ARTHUR BULGIN of Randwick aged 96 died peacefully 23 July 2019. Arthur had joined the Regiment in 1941 (N223632). He was attested into the AIF Regiment (NX123610) on 19 July 1942 at Greta, serving until the end of the war, his date of discharge was 4 June 1946. Arthur survived fighting in New Guinea and Borneo. Thanks to Arthur's son for advice of his passing.
The Regiment's World War 2 veterans are now very few in number.
JOHN BURLISON of Cheltenham died 26 April 2018. Enlisting on 26 August 1948 John was one of the original members of the Regiment when it was re-formed after World War 2). John was a school teacher. His first appointment was to Cabramurra (on the Snowy Project - he opened the school there). He moved around various schools in NSW for a while continuing his part time army service. In about 1960 he took time out and spent a couple of years teaching in London. When he came back he resumed his service with the Lancers. He made Sergeant. Due to deteriorating health John did not attend Association functions of late, but was an avid reader of Lancers' Despatch and until 2015, a financial contributor to the Association and Museum. Thanks to Arthur Ellem for the advice of his passing.
ROBERT CAREY of Bridgeman Downs, Queensland died at 23:50 on Wednesday 4 December 2019. His funeral was at 14:00 on Wednesday 11 December 2019 in Bridgeman Downs. Our records note that Robert served for four years in the 1960s and attained the rank of corporal. Since moving to Queensland Robert became an active associate member of the 2/14 LH (QMI) Association. His wife Jan advising that "Rob enjoyed receiving your emails, the Lancers' Despatch and his association with the Royal NSW Lancers". Advice supplied by Jan Carey and Bill Cross.
PETER (HARRY) HALLORAN aged 57 of Kings Langley, died of a heart attack in late November 2019. Harry served in the Regiment for 36 years moving to the inactive list in 2017. The enduring memory of Harry is one of a 'straight talker' - you always knew where you stood with him - he had the experience and knowledge to back himself. Heavily involved with training up to his last few times with the unit; in the words of his last RSM, he was soldier the Regiment found it hard to replace. Harry was also a great friend to the Lancers' Museum; his interest in weaponry and encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject was a great resource.
Harry's funeral on 6 December 2019 was attended by 150 Lancers, either in uniform or wearing berets and service medals, all of the COs and RSMs Harry served under who could make it were present at the moving ceremony where we learned of his contribution to family, his employer, the Army and community. A worthy farewell.
Frank Holles, one of Harry's former COs who sadly could not make it to the funeral passed on his memories:-
"Harry was a soldier's soldier . As straight as the proverbial gun barrel (and there was little anyone could tell Harry about firearms either civilian or military and of any calibre).
I led an exercise squadron made up of members of both A and B Squadron at Broken Hill in October 1983. We were 2CAV's C Squadron for the exercise. We had a temperamental KVA powering the Zero Alpha and Zero Bravo cars when static. Harry who was still a trooper in '83 made it his crusade to make the thing work irrespective of its mechanical temperament. I can remember him frequently getting out of his hutchie at some ungodly hour and disappearing into the night to fix it. Five or so minutes later it would roar back into life and Harry would retire to more broken sleep. He never complained, he just always got on with it.
Officers come and go in and out of a regiment, but it is the long serving Senior NCOs who provide a regiment's backbone. Harry was a real strength in the regimental family. There was another side to Harry, an active sense of humour, a very analytical mind and an engaging conversationalist, and by any definition, a really good bloke.
He will be sorely missed."
Thank you all very much for your assistance in supporting the Museum and Association financially in the 2019/20 Financial Year to date. Our records (and they may not be perfect, human data entry has been involved) show the following supported by donation, the Association:
Douglas Black, Bert Castellari, Alan Chanter, Paul DeGeorgio, Josie Edwards, Trevor Lord, John McPhee, John Van Gelderen.
and the following the Museum:
Jack Best, Douglas Black, Bert Castellari, Alan Chanter, Paul DeGeorgio, Josie Edwards, Jonathan Herps, Trevor Lord, Brian McEvilly, John McPhee, Bob Stenhouse, John Van Gelderen.
Donations to the Museum (the Museum is registered with the charity tick) and Association are possible securely using PayPal from your credit card (Visa, Mastercard, AMEX) or from your PayPal account:
Click Here to go to the donation page. Donations to the Museum are tax deductible.
Don't forget your memorabilia, the online shop now has Regimental beanies for sale; we have secure payment facilities available using your credit card (now including AMEX) or your PayPal account. Click Here for the Museum Shop.
We also need Museum volunteers. All that is required is an interest in the Regiment and its history, we find everyone has a skill to contribute. Simply be at the Museum at 10:00 on one of our orientation days 6 June or 20 September. If you have any questions about our volunteer programme, simply call the editor, John Howells on 0405 482 814.
Membership of the RAACA NSW is free to all applicants over 75. 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 Bld 96, Victoria Barracks (Sydney), Locked Bag 7005, Liverpool NSW 1871, 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, AUSTRALIA, (Postal Address: PO Box 7287, PENRITH SOUTH NSW 2750, AUSTRALIA) Tel: +61 (0)405 482 814.
© New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881;
Linden House, Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, PARRAMATTA, AUSTRALIA
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