Monday 24th April
In the afternoon BIL Ken arrived from Noosa. He joined a handful of men and helped us set up the shade pergolas and 100 chairs for the Anzac Day services in the morning.
Tuesday 25th April
At Dawn Service this morning I proudly wore my medals from National Service for the years 1966 to 1968.
I wore an Armoured Corps beret and regimental badge.
I had hoped to wear my fathers medals from WWII from his service in North Africa – Egypt – .His date of enlistment and service are for the years 1939 to 1946. More information about those medals appears below.
I placed a small wooden cross (with my fathers details printed on clear plastic tape) in our small Garden of Remembrance.
All four of those items has a story. Some stories are longer than others. Be prepared for a long read or skip to tomorrow.
War Service Medals.
My father had his war service medals withheld by the Department of Defence, Department of Honours and Awards since 1946.(The reason is another long story which I will not labour over in this post.) I knew nothing of this until after my fathers death in 2,000. In 2011 I was visiting Canberra and went to the National Archives and on a whim asked to see my Army record. The record was not yet available so I asked to see my father’s records. There was not much to see. A paragraph giving name, regimental number, date of enlistment and place of birth (which was incorrect and is the source of another long story which I will not post about today). Date of birth was also incorrect but that was not unusual for the time, many young men falsely declared a date of birth during the war years. The rest of the records were “Not Yet Reviewed” and not due to be released until somebody somewhere approved the release. At the time I thought “Oh well just one of those things” and apart from asking the staff at Archives how to get the record released I went no further until we stopped travelling full time and settled back into our house at Airlie Beach in 2013. I was looking for my old school records when I came across a small briefcase which held my fathers personal papers and which was given to me after my father’s death. One of the items which caught my attention was a DVA (Department of Veterans Affairs) Card. The card was for medical treatment and pension. I wondered how, if my father’s war records were locked, he managed to get a pension and DVA card. It did not make sense. I further wondered why there were no medals in his belongings and why he never went to an Anzac Service or marched in the once a year parade and never had any medals to show my brother, sisters or myself. I recalled then that at some time in the past my mother lamented my father was never able to join the RSL (Returned Soldiers League) or the RSS & AILA (Returned Sailors, Soldier and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia). Later my mother was pleased that finally Dad was able to join the RSL as an Associate Member. Clearly there was more going on than I was aware of.
I then started writing to the Defence Department asking if my father had ever been issued any medals and if not, why not. Once again I was told the records were locked etc etc etc. I wrote again advising my reasons for following up and why I wanted information about any medals which were or were not issued. A reply in 2016 advised a Parliamentary Committee was looking into the subject of Blocked or Withheld Medals and Honours and once their findings were complete, they would respond to me. On 11th April I received a letter from Department of Honours and Awards to advise the medals were now released and would be sent to me via immediate registered mail.
Regrettably those medals did not arrive in time for this years Anzac Day Services.
Armoured Corps beret and Regimental Badge.
In 1968 I was discharged from the Army (Australian Armoured Corps – A Squadron 2 Cavalry Regiment based at Gallipoli Lines, Holsworthy NSW) and took up a position working for a bank in the city of Wollongong. I shared a house with three other staff members on Mt Ousley Road, Balgownie. In October 1968 the worst bushfires in Illawarra history roared through thick dry timbered land in the hinterland. The fire was so intense it jumped the Mt Ousley four lane highway. Thirty three houses and lots of other property was destroyed. All my Army gear, other personal belongings and my surfboard which were stored in the garage were destroyed. The garage was destroyed but the main house was unsinged. The fire then raced into a gully beside the property and missed the house altogether. I was working that day and unlike my workmates in another branch, did not take the day off to rescue possessions. I believed the highway would stop the fire.
I was proved wrong.
I wanted to wear my beret and badge along with my medals and my Dad’s medals at the Dawn Service. So began a hurried search to find an ex member of 2 Cav Regiment who might still have his beret and badge. Noel who lives at Kilcoy in Qld found his beret and badge in an old cardboard box in the back of a wardrobe in his garage. They had not seen the light of day for almost 50 years. Noel agreed to mail them to me.
My service medals
I was not even aware medals had been issued for National Servicemen. Until that is, I attended an Anzac Day Dawn Service at Balgal Beach near Townsville in 2005.In fact it was the first Anzac Day Service or March had attended since being discharged in 1968. The local RSL President and organiser of the event was somebody I went to basic training at Singleton NSW and later Corps training at Armoured Corps base at Puckapunyal in Victoria. We had not seen each other since 1966. During a conversation over a quiet beer he explained his medals and how I could obtain mine. I wrote to Honours and Awards and in due course received my first medal. A few years later, unexpectedly, the second medal arrived.
Small Timber Cross.
In 2013 The Australian War Museum in Canberra had 200,000 small timber crosses made to be used as a Commemorative Project for the WWI 100th Anniversary Years 2014 to 2018.
This year honours the anniversary of the Western Front and the Charge of the Light Brigade Battle of Beersheba in Syria. (The Light Brigade Cavalry became the Armoured Corps) I received a cross and prepared service details on a clear plastic tape which was attached to the cross. I placed the cross in our small Remembrance Garden, (surrounded by Rosemary, the Remembrance floral symbol) along with another 20 or so crosses placed in the garden by other village residents.
After the service a man came up to me. He was staying with his family in the Treasure Island Holiday Resort next door and decided to come to our 11am service. It turns out he was also part of A Squadron 1 Cavalry Regiment in 1966 and early 1967 when Noel and I were both part of the Regiment. Noel and I were National Servicemen while he was Regular Army. Originally he was part of 1 Cav when they were based in Puckapunyal in Victoria. When the Regiment was moved into bush in Holsworthy he was part of the team who lived in tents while establishing a camp made from Nissan Huts. He was also on parade with Noel and I when the Regimental name was changed to 2 Cav (short story reason – our Regiment was selected to go to Vietnam and a US Armoured Corps named 1 Cav was already stationed there. It would be confusing operating two 1 Cav Regiments from the same location. So… our name was changed. At the same time our fancy yellow silk scarves, silver belt buckles, silver buttons and black tank suits were replaced by more practical green tank suits and standard army issue green scarves, brass buckles, buttons and bush hats Oooh how I loved those yellow silk scarves, black tank suits and silver badges etc. On a couple of occasions we had to parade through Sydney streets in the M113A Armoured Personnel Carriers and all drivers and crew members wore our clobber with aplomb, the yellow silk scarves blowing in the breeze, newspaper and TV showed us all at our finest)
We had not seen each other since 1968 and only had a few minutes to talk with each other as he had a function to attend and I had an Anzac Day Luncheon at the Treasure Island Holiday Resort.