The Royal New South Wales Lancers

Lancer - Trooper Stanley Butler

STANLEY NORMAN WILLIAM BUTLER (NX101256) 12 July 1923 - 31 October 2016.

Stan died on 31 October 2016. He was one of the militia members of the 1st Machine Gun Regiment who transferred with others to become members of the Second AIF in the 1st Australian Tank Battalion. He became a Lance Corporal in 4 Troop of A Squadron by the time it was in New Guinea. Some of 4 Troop’s involvement in the Huon Peninsula campaign is recorded in the unit’s history and in 'Memories of A Squadron' published in May 2000.

An extract from the history: "... 4 Troop was taken by barge to the Buri River near Scharnhorst Point where on 9 January 1944 they went into action with a patrol of the 2/17 Battalion. Strong resistance was being encountered … the position was attacked with covering fire from the Matildas’ Besas and captured … one of 4 Troop’s tanks had a track blown off by a Jap mine which had been laid after the patrol had moved forward."

Stan reported the follow up to this in the half page he contributed to 'Memories'. In an account previously quoted in Lancers’ Despatch of August 2013 he told how he began depressing the howitzer for action forgetting that the troop leader, Lieutenant Bartlett, who was ill, had been hanging on to it for a more comfortable ride outside. As the gun barrel came down he was sliding off and could have fallen in front of the moving tank. Stan made a quick change and Bartlett survived. Preceding this story was a lighter tale:

"While 4 Troop was in reserve and waiting to cross the Masaweng River, where the infantry had supposedly cleared the northern side … the Boss (Bartlett) and Lt Ben Hall, as it was a stinking hot day, decided to have a dip in the shallow river to cool off. When nearly waist deep in the middle of the stream and completely stripped off, not realising they could possibly be observed from Jap held Fortification Point, suddenly a small mortar bomb arrived in the river followed by a second, landing between them and our mob having a short rest on the southern shore. We've never seen a funnier sight than two naked 'brass' bums in full frightened flight rushing to safety ..."

Stan was born on 12 July 1923, in Bankstown, then a far out (distance not attitude) suburb of Sydney. His wife, Charlotte, now 94, tells of Stan’s beginnings and later life: "He attended Bankstown primary and high schools. He used to get into trouble for not paying attention, too busy watching the pigeons out the school window."

But he was a persistent, committed bloke as the story of their romance unfolds. It developed slowly rather than as one of those at times necessarly rushed wartime liaisons. Stan went into the army on 29 December 1941. Those of that intake were soon after taken to the army camp at Orange Showground. Charlotte was living with her family at Yeoval 80 kilometres away. Later Stan was transferred to Greta, (or it may have been Singleton). Sometimes in those years in the central west of NSW, as in much of Australia, travelling was difficult and demanding.

Charlotte continues: (At the time) "I never got to know Stan. He was just one of the boys. When they were despatched from there he wrote to the friend I was boarding with … he asked her to get me to write to him. He knew my first name but not my surname … that was the start of our friendship. One night when I was writing to my parents I thought I’d write a note to him, what about goodness knows. We just kept on writing.

I knew very little of his army life. After a while I went back to Yeoval to work in my father’s office. I used to send Stan the Sunday Telegraph. At times my Mum made him a fruit cake. When Stan was discharged from the army (November 1945) he went back to his old boss to finish his apprenticeship of cement rendering and concreting. We continued writing.

One holiday weekend I invited him to come up to Yeoval. Not easy to get there so I told him to get the train to Wellington and we would meet him there. The train came but no Stan. Thought he must have got cold feet. Later that night Stan turned up at Yeoval. He had got off the train at Orange but there was no transport to Yeoval. So he started to walk.

Someone stopped and asked him where he was going. He said he could take Stan to Molong. Stan knew Harry Britten lived there and somehow found where Harry lived. I guess after a good chinwag Harry took him up to Yeoval. Lucky the café was still open and they asked if they knew where I lived. Lucky for Stan I was only five minutes around from the café."

They became engaged in August, 1947. The post war years were tough. There was a housing shortage. In Sydney there were regular power blackouts, general shortages of every day items and a black market which involved shop keepers and consumers.

Charlotte: "Stan bought a block of ground in Bankstown. At that time you could build a garage and live in it. The only problem was getting the material, fibro mainly. Had to have the order in for two years to get it. Somehow he got the timber and concrete slab down but when he went to get the fibro, sorry, no. Stan knew the owner of the business his boss used to get his material from. Stan told him it was going to be a bit hard, his wife was pregnant, and so on, but it got him enough fibro to finish the garage.

Stan had gas and water and electricity connected but to get a stove and copper he had to buy them on the black market. My uncle went to Wellington and asked in the hardware store if they had a bath tub and they said yes as long as you like green. It’s 16 years since we sold the house and to my knowledge the green bath is still there.

We were married on 9 October 1948, and have a daughter and two sons. In 1951-52 Stan decided he was going into business. He had a cottage to cement render. On his first day he had sand and cement delivered but had to get there himself. He went on my bike, his shovel, floats and straight edge strapped on. He got the job done."

There are more stories about Stan.

Given a 1927 lorry he had to drive from Yeoval to Sydney and having had only one lesson on driving it he still had to get a driving licence. The policeman asked how long he’d been driving. 'Only today', said Stan. The policeman granted the licence adding, 'By the time you get to Sydney you’ll improve'.

There was the time he needed bricks but could not get the number he needed. Doug Beardmore who was a near neighbour then enabled him to get them from a factory which was being demolished. A few years later a building slump put Stan out of business. He got a job in a Bankstown hardware store owned by a friend he had known at school. He retired after 18 years in that job.

Late in life Stan developed dementia and prostate cancer. He needed full time care for 16 months before he died, a cruel end for a man who had given all he could.

"He was a home body," Charlotte said. " He’d help anyone if he could."

Bert Castellari

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