Lancers' Despatch 15
Website of the Royal New South Wales Lancers Lancer Barracks and Museum
Editorial Museum Matters Britains TA Turns 100 I Remember Centurions Another Federation Star Tank Versus Tank Boer War Memorial Departed Comrades Gordon Ayre Bardia Barracks Reunion Anzac Day Reserve Forces Day Thanks Please Help Regimental Bullion Badges Coming Events RAACA Electronic Response Sheet .pdf Response Sheet .pdf Version
This has been quite a year for the Museum and Association. The Museum now has a completely new exhibition in every room, and an expanded vehicle collection. The Association has more members, primarily due to the Reserve Forces Day Council organising certificates for those who marched this year and insisting that in order to get a certificate you had to be an association member. On the flip side, we sadly lost a number of valued Association members
This is a bit of a bumper edition of Lancers' Despatch. Earlier this year I asked for members to tell the story of their time in the Regiment; many chose to, and the recollections make great reading. Many thanks to the contributors, all of whom are noted, and to Bill Prosser for his photos.
There have been changes to the committee. Ian Hawthorn and Ross Baker joined. Ian many will recall served with the Regiment in the mid 1970s as OC A Squadron coming to us after service in the Royal Tank Regiment; he is doing a great job running the publicity programme and seeking grants for the Museum. Ian was also a visiting lecturer at Macquarie University when the editor was a postgraduate student. Ross also served in the Regiment and 12/16 HRL; he is proving of great assistance to Ross Brown in developing the exhibits. Our thanks to David Crisp for his long valued and selfless service on committee. David is of course continuing to volunteer, devoting his energies to his beloved vehicles.
Ian made a great find in the Museum's collection. In Major Lee's diary (Major General GL Lee as a Major commanded Lancer Squadron in the Boer War) written on the pages of a New South Wales Military Forces pay ledger, are poems. The handwriting varies, but some are in the original hand of the author AB (Banjo) Patterson. Of particular interest to us as members of the Regiment is one poem "The Reveille" which tells the story of the Regiment as it was in 1899, and of its commitment to the war in South Africa. It was penned on the SS Kent, the ship that carried Major Lee and the first reinforcements to the conflict (Lancer Squadron under the command of Captain (later Major General) Cox was already in action). Click here to read "The Revellie" and Click here for a short biography of Major Patterson, and two more of his poems, "A Flag for Australia" written late in his time in South Africa where he is showing disenchantment with the situation of Australian sub-units working under British (English to use his words) command; and his epic "With French to Kimberley" where the Regiment again features.
Ever mindful that the Museum should put its best foot forward when out in the public eye, Bill Prosser has been running driver training days. These not only improve the skill of those who are needed to show our growing collection to the public with dynamism, but are very enjoyable in a nostalgic way for those volunteers taking part. Some say it is just like being back in the Regiment without the need to show deference to rank.
In addition to supporting Reserve Forces Day Museum vehicles supported Ingleburn RSL on Anzac Day, were on public display at the Ingleburn Alive festival in March, the Blacktown festival in May and supported Avalon RSL in June; a pretty heavy calendar. We are very lucky to have the services of Bill Prosser to organise the activities.
Our volunteer numbers have also increased to a point where the museum is now open every Sunday. That is not to say we do not need more volunteers. Anyone who turns up will be put to work (after you pay $2 per year to be a financial member of the Museum Inc - this is essential for insurance cover). Not a great cost to re-live your times in the Regiment and contribute to the retention and display of its history.
Captain David Brown
In 2008 the Territorial Army celebrates its 100th birthday. To commemorate this milestone a series of events were held throughout the UK to celebrate 'TA100'. The highlight of the celebrations was a TA Pageant held on Horse Guards Parade in London on Saturday 21 June 2008.
The pageant took the form of a military display showcasing the history and equipment of the TA from its formation in 1908, to the First World War, Second World War, the Cold War and participation in recent conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan. Special recognition was made of gallantry award winners including WO2 Stan Hollis VC, 6th Battalion, The Green Howards, who was the only soldier to win a VC on D-Day in June 1944 and LCpl Darren Dickson MC, a 22 year old Bus Driver from Edinburgh was awarded the Military Cross in 2005 for his actions in an ambush on his vehicle convoy in Iraq in May 2004. A thousand TA soldiers took part and over 6,000 people watched the event. A guard of honour was provided by the Honorable Artillery Company (HAC), the oldest regiment in the whole of the British Army dating back to 1537, currently a TA Artillery Regiment. The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt and HRH Prince Charles attended.
2008 is an important year for the TA as in March the British Government announced a wide ranging review of its role and structure. There are currently 36,000 soldiers in the TA and since 2003 over 15,000 have been on an operational tour of either Iraq or Afghanistan. Whilst the review has been received cynically by some, who view it as a precursor to another round of defence cuts, it is likely that the Review will recommend that the TA be structured to provide more specialist units, like medical or logistics units. We await to hear more.
A part of my short but far from brilliant career was with “C” Squadron back in 1957. I used to ride to parade nights on my motorbike and it was about six months before I realised I was riding the wrong way up Darcy Street. But I was otherwise alert.
At the time all our local exercises were in Staghound armoured cars. Our nearest Centurion was, I believe, at Holsworthy but we did have the turret and gun of a Centurion in one of the sheds at the back of the parade ground for training.
My first experience of armour was on the occasion of a squadron bivouac at Glenfield. As I was a new chum to the regiment with no corps training (I came from the 30th Infantry Battalion) I was given a static role in one of the Staghounds. I noted, at least in the car I was in, that the gun was non-operational with the breech permanently sealed for some reason, so practice in loading was impossible.
I’d have loved to be the commander, up in the turret, with a siren going as we made our way along Church Street and all the way to Glenfield. Must have been a sight for the traffic on the road to see an armoured squadron showing its stuff.
I attended a Centurion training course at Puckapunyal in April and learned how to be a slave to this giant, demanding beast. Initial gunnery practice was an eye-opener. The tank was trundled up to a miniature rifle range; a Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifle (with a .22” bore!) was mounted co-axially with the 20-pounder gun where we went through the drill of sighting and firing at tiny cardboard targets. Needless to say no recoil!
Subsequently we had real gunnery practice on the field firing range. However, as there had been some quality problem with HE ammunition (premature detonation) each tank was permitted to fire just three armour-piercing shells (sabot I think they were called). We were told that these shells cost 120 pounds – quite a sum at the time.
In late June “C” Squadron attended annual camp at Puckapunyal. A cold winter. Often when we were waiting to move my crew would make a fire, fuelled by some our jerry can petrol reserves.
The regimental band playing a rather slow “Imperial Echoes” did not enhance reveille on those cold, dark mornings – clearly they were not all fully awake, although we soon were.
We spent a few days on exercises out in the back blocks of Puckapunyal. Wearing and sleeping in two sets of clothes beneath our overalls. Around 6 o’clock one evening we were told to be ready for an exercise. Our troop’s tanks were scattered in the scrub within a hundred-metre area. The four of us took shelter from the cold in the tank with the cupola down. Every half hour or so I’d look out but there was no sign of activity. Around 10 o’clock I thought I’d better make enquiries and found that the crews from the other tanks had long gone – back to the leaguer area!
On all our training exercises each tank had a Regular Army member in attendance, usually sitting on the open cupola. On one occasion I gave the order “Driver halt!” My driver stood on the brakes and the warrant officer was ejected from his comfortable position to the ground. Amazingly he wasn’t injured although his remarks were far from complimentary.
One of the highlights of the camp was a visit by the Governor-General, Field Marshall Sir William Slim and his wife. The squadron put on a very fine display in the drive past the saluting base. Later Viscount and Lady Slim joined us in the O.R.s mess for tea.
A far less felicitous drive-past, if I might call it that, was my humiliating experience during an exercise below a hill where stood a large gathering of top brass. It was some sort of squadron exercise and I was receiving instructions over the radio and trying to give directions to the gunner.
I gave the order “Driver right” and this was obeyed, however I was too intent (very conscious of the spectators on the hill) on the gunnery aspect, with the result that the driver kept the Centurion turning right to perform a perfect circle while the rest of the squadron’s tanks proceeded in the correct direction.
Well, I was, after all, only a temporary corporal.
But they were great times with great mates.
I joined the Lancers back in '68 in HQ. Sqn. I suppose I was a TANKIE? (or was that the start?) I was one month too old for the first call-up! But due to my forebears, I had a desire to follow them in their call to Military discipline.
My first camp at Pucka (Puckapunyal) was naturally in rain (whatever) mud, dust, yellow flowers (etc). Bickie found me digging trenches or trying to encourage my troopers (as a lance corporal) to get to 6' without the help of the water flowing from the heavens, and for my efforts, I was told to board the truck with them for the promised HOT shower WOW!
It was unfortunate to serve under JCK as he had the knack of finding out things that hadn't been done. Ie. I as a lance Corporal, Orderly Rm. Corporal had not done a recruit course, so it was off to Pucka again within his tender mercies.
As a gunner and Crew commander; I think I fired the Last Centurion round down range for the 1/15 RNSW Lancers.
Even though I left the Regiment as a result of losing tanks, I recall with fond memories the years I spent in various Sqns. at Parramatta and Pucka.
I can remember in late 1965 at camp (Puckapunyal). One evening we went up to the boozer up on the hill and had a few and on the way back down some of the boys found a large water pipe and decided to roll it down the hill, trouble is it rolled right through the cook's shack no doubt there was an enquiry next morning.
Another time I remember members from C Sqn attended a" Corpse Visit" to the Commandos, where we done some kayaking on the harbour, I can remember Billy Prosser trying to get into that kayak, every time straight over the top and into the drink, wished I had a camera at the time.
I was in Recce Troop for 4 years 100days joining in 1959. Warren Glenny was our troop leader. I was always a driver and taught many a trooper how to drive a Ferret.. We did the freedom of the of the city in 1959; I was a very green driver then. I still have photo of this event. I remember a certain driver took off a bin from his Ferret during our practice for the parade.
One camp we used champs for our 14 days in Pucka. We drove up to the army ski hut in Mount Buller as an exercise we then had to clean out the hut and return the rubbish to the tip in Pucka. Another camp we drove from the barracks over the ranges through Bell down to Pucka as an exercise, this was a great trip staying in Showgrounds over night. We also did the pageant of a nation at the show ground for the Queen's visit. Another time we took a Ferret to RAAF Richmond so the load master could practice loading a MK2, that day we went for a few joy rides. I also remember us taking part in the Parramatta Show where a SLR went missing but is was found after a search.
In Recce troop we did many shows spent weekends with other regiments such as artillery or long drives. I enjoyed my service.
A newspaper advertisement for the CMF in the early ‘60s caught my attention and I thought it sounded OK, so in 1967 at age 17 I decided to join up. An uncle who was a WW2 vet suggested the Lancers to me so I contacted the barracks and offered to enlist. I did a medical and a psych test and waited, and waited. About 9 months. My visits to the barracks during this time sustained my enthusiasm because I saw Centurions, Ferrets, SLRs and all sorts of other stuff I wanted to play with. The army was pretty busy conscripting blokes about that time and I guess they didn’t know what to do with a volunteer, and I started to think it would never happen. Finally they called me back, swore me in and issued me with a kit that didn’t fit me.
I never got to do a recruit camp, probably because the influx of national servicemen limited places. Towards the end of my term as a recruit I was asked to nominate for a course and I selected tank gunnery. Instead I was trained as a radio operator, my instructors being Jack Booth, Jack Best and Ron Brettle.
My first camp was at Puckapunyal with Admin Troop C Squadron and we travelled to Pucka by bus. The CO was Colonel Arnott, and the Squadron OC was Captain Hodge. For the first week we were under canvas at Bryant’s hill, and then on the second week we moved to Scrub Hill. I was radio operator for the SQMS, Bruce Sawyer, and our landrover driver was Bruce Wright. The excitement of the camp occurred when a tank brake drum exploded injuring Les Gabriel and Ken Lawler. We went to their location to render assistance and while we were there we had our own accident. Reg Swadling was the SSM and was travelling in a Ferret driven by some HRL trooper who deciding to reverse without a guide, smashed into the side of the landrover pinning Bruce Wright between the door and the sill. Fortunately he wasn’t seriously injured.
Prior to the next camp I was posted to 4 Troop C Squadron as Operator/Loader despite having no training as a loader. This oversight was corrected by a night’s introduction to the drill and ordinance at the 20pdr simulator at the barracks. The .30 cal co-ax was learned on the job. The regular troop leader was John Mitchell whom I didn’t have much experience of, but the other troop members held him in high regard. For this camp however we had a stand-in troop leader, Peter O’Rielly. I was his operator, Doug Rowley was the gunner, and Kevin Franklin was our driver. Other troop members I recall were BrianTurner, Al Morris, Mal French, Neil Jeffries, Dick Cavanaugh and Brian Stanilands. I became known as “Boot”. It was a June camp, the weather was mostly foul and freezing, and the ground around the static shoot site was a quagmire. We wandered around the range and collected spent sabots that we added to the fire for additional heat and brilliant illumination. Loading for the shoot was some of the hardest, most frantic work I’d ever done, and by the end of it I’d shed most of my layered clothing.
With the exception of my first camp, we always travelled to Victoria by RAAF Hercules and did the last leg by coach. On one occasion we went to Laverton, and while we waited for the buses to show up they opened the canteen and put us inside for a couple of hours. Very considerate of them, and it demonstrated that officers always have their men’s welfare uppermost in their minds, but a silly thing to do nevertheless. It parallels another occasion when I was doing a TEWT with the Hunter River Lancers. There was a solar eclipse one afternoon, and lest we look upon it and suffer eye damage, they stuck us in a pub for the duration. We got blind anyway, but they meant well.
The last full tank camp I did was I think, in 1970. Then I was operator on 34C and Joe Tabone was crew commander under the instruction of Terry Boardman.
The last camp I did at Pucka with Alan Prettyman as troop leader was also the last I did in tanks. The second part of the camp was a conversion course to the M113 with Terry Lawn and Len Jones providing most of the instruction. The carriers were a huge change from the Centurions as they didn’t require the same huge amount of maintenance, and by 4.30 most afternoons we were in the Asco.
Shortly after the conversion to carriers, declining numbers caused the demise of C Squadron and I found myself in 2 Troop A Squadron. This troop picked up of identities such as Jeff Williamson, Brendan McConnell, Bruce Richards and Ken Dugan from other C Squadron troops residue. At this stage the CO was Colonel Glenny, the OC was Captain Smith and the SSM was Ernie Dennet. The RSM was Terry Malone, and we also had Sid Lewis in the role of CMF RSM, often referred to as the 2SM. I generally avoided these people because the length of my hair at that time was apt to attract unfavourable mention. Other people I remember from this era are Joe Schembri, Ivan McCauley, Mal Barclay, Brian Kinderman and Frank Tattersall. Singleton was now the venue for our camps and we were back to bussing it.
About this time the army decided to make a movie promoting the CMF so the first half of the first camp we did at Singelton was before the cameras and yielded an epic called “Citizen Soldier”. This film is in the Commonwealth Film Archive but it appears copies are not freely available. Shortly after this camp John Negescu became our troop leader and I became a crew commander with Bruce Wright driving me again. I met John again few years ago when he showed up as our local pharmacist.
My last couple of years with the Lancers were pretty busy because in addition to the regular camps and bivouacs I did a couple of Task Force camps where we worked closely with infantry. It was amazing to see the awe in which lance corporals were held by privates (no pun intended). A couple of us were pretty busy on weekends converting an old garage into an OR’s mess, and the troop had its own tank to care for. This tank was number 169 065 and after the army took it back I don’t know what became of it. The Steel Thunder website doesn’t list it and I’m afraid it may have become a range target.
I left the Lancers in 1973 to grow my hair long without interference and I stayed in contact with a few blokes but lost touch with most. A few years ago Brian Stanilands organised a reunion at The Bull & Bush but of all who said they’d be there only four of us made it. It was then that I received the sad news of the passing of Hugh Hicks and Frank Tattersall. The Lancers’ Despatch helps me to stay in touch, although as we all age it seems mostly to herald the despatch of Lancers. The reunion at the Barracks late last year was great and I hope we can have more and better attended. It was good to catch up, but alarming to see how people had changed and to realise that 35 years have slipped by us.
When I think back on the enthusiasm and the reasons I once had for joining up, I doubt if I could muster up a similar feeling for a regiment of soft skinned vehicles and work cover governance. I was lucky for the times in which I served, and the company I served with.
Photos from Bill Wallington's collection
Corporal Ray Jones received the fifth clasp for his Reserve Forces Medal at the annual Church Parade on Sunday, the second of March, 2008. This represents 40 years efficient service in the reserve forces and entitles him to wear the rare Federation Star on his medal ribbon.
Ray joined the CMF in 1966 and did his recruit course at the historic Wallgrove Army Camp at Eastern Creek in the same year. He was initially posted to the Admin Troop, B Squadron but on completion of an A Vehicle Course, he was posted to 3 Troop B Squadron as a Centurion tank driver. Due to having the required trade background, he was asked to join the LAD unit (now Support Squadron) in 1968 where he has spent the rest of his reserve career up to the present. Along the way, Ray qualified for his M113 licence and various B vehicle licences including Land Rovers and Unimogs.
Apart from the Reserve Force Medal, Ray has also received the National Medal and the Australian Defence Medal. Due to his outstanding and long service, Ray is known to several eras of Lancers. His picture with his current medal follows
Ray joins with recent recipient of the Federation Star, WO1 Mick McConnell – they have over 80 years combined service. The amazing thing is that they are both still serving and working towards more long service clasps.
The Editor notes: After I published the article on Mick McConnell's Federation Star, I got a fairly harsh email from Graham Wilson, Staff Officer Policy Research, Directorate of Honours and Awards who castigated me good and proper about the errors in what we published. We were wrong, the clasps (incorrectly referred to by us as bars) are still worn on the medal ribbon, the federation star is worn on the ribbon bar only. Incorrectly, however, Graham Wilson insisted that Mick received the star for the DLSM not the RFM (to quote " .. 'Michael received his Federation Star for the Reserve Forces Medal' is incorrect. WO1 McConnell actually received the 5th clasp to his DLSM ... ". Now even an aged person like myself can clearly see from the published photo that Mick is wearing an RFM - it looks like everyone can make mistakes.
Near Cachy, 2 kilometres west of Villers-Bretonneux, France 08:30, 24 April 1818. Captain F Mitchell MC of the Royal Tank Corps commanding a section of 3 MkV Tanks (2 females armed with machine guns only and a male armed with 2 six-pounder guns (one in each sponson) and machine guns) gives us an eye-witness account of the first tank versus tank battle in history.
"Suddenly, out of the ground ten metres away, an infantryman rose, waving his rifle furiously. We stopped. He ran forward and shouted through the flap, " Look out ! Jerry tanks about I " Swiftly he disappeared into the trench again, and Captain Brown (liaison officer) immediately got out and ran across the heavily shelled ground to warn the female tanks.
I informed the crew, and a great thrill ran through us all. Opening a loophole, I looked out. There, some three hundred yards away, a round, squat-looking monster was advancing ; behind it came waves of infantry, and farther away to the left and right crawled two more of these armed tortoises.
So we had met our rivals at last! For the first time in history tank was encountering tank! The 6-pounder gunners crouching on the floor, their backs against the engine cover, loaded their guns expectantly.
We still kept on a zigzag course, threading the gaps between the lines of hastily dug trenches, and coming near the small protecting belt of wire we turned left, and the right gunner, peering through his narrow slit, made a sighting shot. The shell burst some distance beyond the leading enemy tank. No reply came. A second shot boomed out, landing just to the right, but again there was no reply. More shots followed.
Suddenly a hurricane of hail pattered against our steel wall, filling the interior with myriads of sparks and flying splinters. Something rattled against the steel helmet of the driver sitting next to me, and my face was stung with minute fragments of steel. The crew flung themselves flat on the floor. The driver ducked his head and drove straight on.
Above the roar of our engine sounded the staccato rat-tat-tat-tat of machine guns, and another furious jet of bullets sprayed our steel side, the splinters clanging against the engine cover. The jerry tank had treated us to a broadside of armour-piercing bullets!
Taking advantage of a dip in the ground, we got beyond range, and then turning, we manoeuvred to get the left gunner on to the moving target. Owing to our gas casualties the gunner was working single-handed, and his right eye being swollen with gas, he aimed with the left. Moreover, as the ground was heavily scarred with shell holes, we kept going up and down like a ship in a heavy sea, which made accurate shooting difficult. His first shot fell some fifteen yards in front, the next went beyond, and then I saw the shells bursting all round the tank. He fired shot after shot in rapid succession every time it came into view.
Nearing the village of Cachy, I noticed to my astonishment that the two females were slowly limping away to the rear. Almost immediately on their arrival they had both been hit by shells which tore great holes in their sides, leaving them defenceless against machine-gun bullets, and as their Lewis guns were useless against the heavy armour-plate of the enemy they could do nothing but withdraw.
Now the battle was to us, with our infantry in their trenches tensely watching the duel, like spectators in the pit of a theatre. For a moment they became uncomfortably more than spectators. As we turned and twisted to dodge the enemy’s shells I looked down to find that we were going straight into a trench full of British soldiers, who were huddled together and yelling at the tops of their voices to attract our attention. A quick signal to the gearsman seated in the rear of the tank and we turned swiftly, avoiding catastrophe by a second.
Then came our first casualty. Another raking broad-side from the German tank, and the rear Lewis gunner was wounded in both legs by an armour-piercing bullet which tore through our steel plate. We had no time to put on more than a temporary dressing, and he lay on the floor, bleeding and groaning, whilst the 6-pounder boomed over his head and the empty shell cases clattered all round him.
The roar of our engine, the nerve-racking rat-tat-tat of our machine guns blazing at the Boche infantry, and the thunderous boom of the 6-pounders, all bottled up in that narrow space, filled our ears with tumult, while the fumes of petrol and cordite half stifled us. We turned again and proceeded at a slower pace. The left gunner, registering carefully, began to hit the ground right in front of the Jerry tank. I took a risk and stopped the tank for a moment. The pause was justified; a well-aimed shot hit the enemy’s conning tower, bringing him to a standstill. Another roar and yet another white puff at the front of the tank denoted a second hit! Peering with swollen eyes through his narrow slit, the gunner shouted words of triumph that were drowned by the roar of the engine. Then once more he aimed with great deliberation and hit for the third time. Through a loophole I saw the tank heel over to one side; then a door opened, and out ran the crew. We had knocked the monster out!
Quickly I signed to the machine gunner, and he poured volley after volley into the retreating figures.
My nearest enemy being now out of action, I turned to look at the other two, who were coming forward slowly, while our 6-pounder gunners spread havoc in the ranks of the advancing German infantry with round after round of case-shot, which scattered like the charge of a shot gun.
Now, I thought, we shall not last very long. The two great tanks were creeping relentlessly forward; if they both concentrated their fire on us at once we would be finished. We fired rapidly at the nearest tank, and to my intense joy and amazement I saw it slowly back away. Its companion also did not appear to relish a fight, for it turned and followed its mate, and in a few minutes they had both disappeared, leaving our tank the sole possessor of the field.
This situation, however gratifying, soon displayed numerous disadvantages. We were now the only thing above ground, and naturally the German artillery made savage efforts to wipe us off the map. Up and down we Went, followed by a trail of bursting shells. I was afraid that at any minute a shell would penetrate the roof and set the petrol alight, making the tank a roaring furnace before we could escape.
Then I saw an aeroplane flying overhead not more than a hundred feet up. A great black cross was on each underwing, and as it crossed over us I could see clearly the figures of the pilot and observer. Something round and black dropped from it. For a fraction of a second I watched it, horrified: the front of the tank suddenly bounded up into the air, and the whole machine seemed to stand on end. Everything shook, rattled, jarred with an earth quaking shock. We fell back with a mighty crash, and then continued on our journey unhurt. Our steel walls had held nobly, but how much more would they endure?
A few minutes later, as we were turning, the driver failed to notice that we were on the edge of a steep shell hole, and down we went with a crash, so suddenly that one of the gunners was thrown forward on top of me. In order to right the tank the driver jerked open the throttle to its fullest extent. We snorted up the opposite lip of the crater at full speed, but when just about to clamber over the edge the engine stopped. Our nose was pointing heavenwards, a lovely stationary target for the Boche artillery.
A deadly silence ensued ....
Our nerves were on edge; there was but one thing left, to put the tank in reverse gear, release the rear brake, and run backwards down the shell hole under our own weight. Back we slid, and happily the engine began to splutter, then, carefully nursing the throttle, the driver changed gear, and we climbed out unhurt.
What sweet music was the roar of the engine in our ears now!
But the day was not yet over. As I peeped through my flap I noticed that the German infantry were forming up some distance away, preparing for an attack. Then my heart bounded with joy, for away on the right I saw seven small whippets, the newest and fastest type of tank, unleashed at last and racing into action. They came on at six to eight miles an hour, heading straight for the Germans, who scattered in all directions, fleeing terror-stricken from this whirlwind of death. The whippets plunged into the midst of them, ran over them, spitting fire into their retreating ranks.
Their work was soon over. Twenty-one men in seven small tanks overran some twelve hundred of the enemy and killed at least four hundred, nipping an attack in the bud. Three of the seven came back, their tracks dripping with blood ; the other four were left burning out there in front, and their crews could not hope to be made prisoners after such slaughter. One broke down not far from Cachy, and I saw a man in overalls get out, and, with a machine gun under his arm, run to another whippet, which stopped to pick him up.
We continued to cruise to and fro in front of the Cachy switch-line, and presently a fourth German tank appeared, about eight hundred metres away. The left gunner opened fire immediately, and a few minutes later the reply came swift and sharp, three shells hitting the ground alongside of us. Pursuing the same tactics as before, we increased our speed and then turned, but the jerry tank had disappeared ; there was to be no second duel.
Later on, when turning again, we heard a tremendous crack, and the tank continued to go round in a circle. " What the blazes are you doing ? " I roared at the driver in exasperation. He looked at me in bewilderment and made another effort, but still we turned round and round. Peeping out, I saw one caterpillar track doubled high in the air. We had been hit by the Boche artillery at last, two of the track plates being blown clean away!
I decided to quit. The engine stopped. Defiantly we blazed away our last few rounds at the slopes near Villers-Bretonneux and then crept gingerly out of the tank, the wounded man riding on the back of a comrade." (First published in Everyman at War - 1918.)
The party made it to the nearest friendly trench. The action finished at 13:00, to those who had taken part it seemed like only half an hour.
During the day of 24 April 1918, the Australian 13th (under Brigadier-General TW Glasgow, Derek and Gordon's (past Regimental COs) uncle) and 15th (under Brigadier-General HE (Pompey) Elliott) were preparing for a counter attack that would re-take the village of Villers-Bretonneux, in what is widely regarded as the turning point of World War 1. As the German Army was pushed back to the Hindenberg line and beyond there was still to be much heavy fighting including the brilliant use of Tanks by Lieutenant-General Monash at Le Hamel, and the loss of many lives including those of the newly arrived United States soldiers. In the battle of Villers-Bretonneux, however, Elliot's brilliant plan including use of a troop of the 13th Light Horse as we would now use SAS, executed at a time Glasgow all but bludgeoned from his British commander forced the German Army back for the first time, and signalled the end to Operation Michael, Ludendorf, the German commander's push to take advantage of the situation in Russia and Italy, and force the Allies to capitulate before the increasing power of the United States would tip the balance their way. The battle started late in the evening of 24 April, and continued well into 25 April 1918, the 4th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.
The site dedication of the proposed Boer War Memorial site took place on Saturday, the 31st of May, 2008 in Anzac Avenue, Canberra. It was a brilliant autumn day with just a slight chill in the air. The day was also the 106th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty between the British forces and the Boers in South Africa in 1902. The guest of honour was the Honourable Bob McMullen representing the Prime Minister who also officially launched the Boer War Project aimed at constructing an appropriate memorial on the same site. Also present was Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy, Chief of the Army.
A catafalque party as well as a drummer, bugler, piper and guard commander were provided by the Federation Guard. The ceremony commenced around 1100 hours with the mounting of the catafalque party followed by various speakers including Stuart Braga who wrote the biography on Captain Neville Howse VC. Captain Howse (later a Major-General) was the first of five Victoria Crosses winners from the Australian forces during the Boer War – he was represented by his daughter-in-law, Mrs Valerie Howse, who is now in her nineties. Also notable were the two horsemen dressed in the uniform of the 6th Light Horse and their trusty horses.
There was a very good crowd of about 150 in attendance to enjoy the ceremony and the weather. Among the crowd were some ex-Lancers including Harry Britten as the sole representative of the WWII regiment; the post-war members included Bob Stenhouse, Arthur Ellem, John Palmer, Len Koles, John Howells and Brian Walters.
This impressive ceremony finished around 1200 hours with people invited to take an informal tour and lunch at the nearby Australian War Memorial.
The Boer War Project aims to raise $3.5 million for the construction of a memorial on the site to the Boer War, the only major conflict that is not commemorated on Anzac Avenue. Further information is available on the website www.bwm.org.au or donations can be made by calling the NSW Committee office on 02 9339 3309.
David Craven unless otherwise noted.
RAY BIRKS of Castle Hill on 5 February 2008, aged 84. Mervyn Roland (Ray) Birks first joined 1st Light Horse (M.G) Regiment as a trooper in December 1938 and was posted to 1 Tp A Sqn which was commanded by Lt A.I.F. McKillop. The Squadron Commander was Capt. Max Wheatley and the commanding Officer was that great soldier, Lt Col D.A. Whitehead ("Torpy").
Ray attended an NCO's course at Studley Park, Narellan (the first one there) following the annual camp on Campbelltown Showground. War had then started and together with many others he enlisted in the AIF, but was not called up until after a three month Brigade Camp at Wallgrove. On 2 May 1940 he became NX 15826 of the 7 Division Cavalry Regiment.
He served with 7 Div Cav Regt in the Middle East and New Guinea being demobbed at the end of 1945. In late 1951 he met Fred Fitzsimmons, then a Major who enticed him back to the old fold, with his old rank of Sergeant. Then followed an enjoyable period of service. the highlight was in 1953 when he was selected as a Mounted Escort in the Australian Coronation Contingent. Also selected from The Lancers was Sgt Bert Mansfield. He was off to London to ride a horse at government expense.
On resuming duty with the Lancers he was posted SSM to B Sqn, but unfortunately in November 1954 an accident put an end to a happy period in his life, and his service was over.
The Coronation duty was a wonderful experience for Ray, and he kept a detailed diary of the entire adventure which was published to raise funds for 7 Div Cav Regimental Association.
After leaving the Regiment Ray kept in touch with the Lancers Association, was President of the 7 Div Cav Regiment Association and contributed to the Museum until shortly before he passed away. Thanks very much to Norm Grinyer for letting us know of Ray's passing. Ray's story comes from an article he provided for the February 2003 Lancers Despatch.
ALAN AYNSLEY of Thurgoona NSW on 14.3.08, aged 85. Alan joined the Regiment on 23.10.40, gained promotions and was commissioned on 2.7.43 as Troop Leader of 2 Troop B Squadron. Local member Roy Fogden, formerly of that troop, confirmed the death of Alan, who often travelled up to reunions in past years. Norman Bent and I called on him a couple of times when driving through Albury on our way to functions at Puckapunyal.
While B Squadron saw no action in New Guinea, being in reserve at Buna, he had his share at Balikpapan. The Regiment's actions there are reported in our history on pages 292-302, with Alan and his troop being mentioned twice. His wife Margaret pre—deceased him. He was a competent officer and likeable good mate, and many members will remember him well.
HUGH CLARK of Wyoming, on lst June 08, aged 86, Hugh joined the Regiment on 28.5.40. He gained promotion becoming a Troop Sergeant of our lst Aust Armoured Regiment (AIF), serving in B Squadron. He was in New Guinea in l943/44, where A and C Squadrons had all the action, with B Squadron in reserve. Then at Balikpapan, Borneo in l945 for the successful actions by B and A Squadrons, and Hugh had plenty.’ On one occasion a mine exploded and damaged Hugh's tank. He had his head out of the hatch, and was severely dazed. The damaged tank was towed out of danger by the following tank of his troop. The action is noted on page 300 of our History.
In the post war years Hugh was enthusiastically active in our Lancers Association, coming to reunions and various activities. In l982 I became Secretary, and at my invitation Hugh joined our committee. At the AGM of l986, the year following the Regiment's centenary celebrations, Hugh was elected President, to follow Norman Bent, who had decided not to stand again. Hugh’s first official duty was to make presentations to Norman Bent and Philip Vernon in appreciation of their long and successful service as Presidents. The most notable times of his Presidency were the commemorations of 50th Anniversary events — of the formation of the wartime regiment in l932 and the Balikpapan landings in l995, the biggest after Gallipoli, Also "Australia Remembers" - the end of WW2. Under Hugh‘s supervision they all went well. During his term the get-together lunches with our widows as guests were initiated, with Hugh entertaining on saxophone and organising other entertainment.
For some time the committee was well aware that our Association, of over l00 years, was an ongoing one, to give support to the serving lst/l5th Lancers, and provide companionship and support to its former members. As wartime members gradually fade away, those who had served in the post war regiment would comprise the membership. It was quite logical that the leadership should be by post war men, with which Hugh agreed, and in l996 he decided not to stand again as President. He personally invited Len Koles, who joined committee in l995, to succeed him, and Len was elected as President at the AGM in l996. Thus after ten years in office, Hugh was the last of the wartime Presidents. He remained on committee for one year, and decided then it was time to bow out.
In l995 I resigned as Secretary due to my move to Canberra. During our years together in our respective offices, Hugh and I had a good and close relationship, and I certainly had a high regard for him, as did members of our Association. It is worthy of note that Hugh was also active in Legacy, and for some years was President of the Hornsby Branch. His concern for those needing assistance saw him give it behind the scenes to some of our members and widows.
At the funeral at Northern Suburbs Crematorium we were represented by Neville Kingcott, of our wartime B Squadron, and Len Koles, the current President, who spoke of Hugh's wartime service and with the post war Lancers Association. Also present were some from Legacy and RSL who contributed to the service. Recognising Hugh's love for, and ability with the saxaphone, it played the music, including the Last Post, which Len said was very good. Hugh had a good farewell.
RONALD (BUC) CULLEN of Darwin NT on 25 February 2008. Ron died at age 64 of a heart condition. Ron served in the Regiment in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, he also served in 12/16 HRL. Ron's dad had served with 1 AR (RNSWL) during WW2, and Ron's son served with 1AR. We all remember Ron as a great soldier and friend; most managed to see him when he came down from Darwin to attend the Regimental Reunion in October last year. I particularly remember Ron when we served together in B Squadron in the late 1970s. Ron was a troop sergeant who was highly respected. I recall a squadron Christmas party at Frank Fitzpatrick's pool-side, Ron and I were both fairly new fathers, we had a nappy changing race, Ron changed his son Ian's, I my son Simon. Ron was far more dextrous that I and won hands down. Frank Holles in particular remembers the irony of them serving together on B Squadron Headquarters in the 1980s, as their fathers had served together in B Squadron at Balikpappan in 1945.
Ron continued to serve in the Army in the Northern Territory until shortly before his death at the same time he worked a full time job and was carer to his beloved grandchildren. Ron was much respected and loved by many. he will be sorely missed. Lancers and family members present at the funeral at Campsie were: Jack Best, Ron Brettle, Jeff Darke, Steve Dorrington, Tony and Nora Fryer, Steve Hadfield, John and Rosemary Howells, Len Koles, John McPhee, Kerry McConnell, Dorothy Mikel, Mark Swadling.
John Howells (Editor) provided the information on Ron Cullen.
RSL "Reveille" of May/June 08 listed under Last Post the following:-
BREWER, V G NX49442 Tpr 1 Armd Regt
TETLEY, A R NXll9549 Cpl l Aust Tk Bn.
We have no record of them, and would like any reader who knew either one to contact John Blackberry (02) 9534 2353 or David Craven (03) 6249 3579.
I met Gordon in 1954. when he marched into the Regiment, as an 18 Year old, National Serviceman, who had just completed his three months training and was assigned to the Regiment to complete his 2 years obligation.
I marched into the Regiment as a 23 year old, and as I missed National Service, and didn‘t know the first thing about the army. I was employed by the Commonwealth Bank, on the Maintenance Staff.. I was encouraged to join, because I worked with two members who were already members of the Regiment. Terv Leigh who was a Captain, and Jim (Jock) Denham who was a Sergeant, and had been in a Parachute Regiment, that landed in Arnhem during the war and was taken prisoner. He had many tales to tell.
Gordon and I struck up a friendship that lasted from 1954 to the day that I last saw him in Westmead Hospital just before his discharge to go home just before Christmas 2007. After our first camp at Singleton they called for volunteers to go to Puckapunyal to do courses on the Centurion Tanks. Gordon elected to do the Gunnery Course and I did the Drivers Course.
Over the years we sat for our promotion exams and gained our Corporal Stripes. I spent 10 years in the Regiment and gained my three stripes just before Gordon. We did many camps together sewing in Recce Troop, and did many wireless exercises through Victoria in the Ferrets sewing under John Drolz. After I left the Regiment to get married and moved to Coffs Harbour, Gordon kept in touch. Gordon having completed his apprenticeship as a Electrician with the N.S.W. Railways was employed to work on the Air Conditioned trains that used to go up the North Coast and terminate at Grafton. When Gordon got to Coffs Harbour he would give me a ring and I would go up to Grafton, pick him and bring him back to spend the week-end with my family and I.
Over the years Gordon kept me in touch with the Regiment and all the members that I had sewed with. We always greeted each other with the title of CORP which was term of endearment, whether it be a phone call, letter, or face to face. Gordon over the years gave me some Regimental Memorabilia, that I cherish, and was not able to repay his generosity.
You may have lost a member of the regiment, but I have lost a great mate.
For those of us who served at Bardia Barracks Ingleburn it was a nostalgic day in March. A small precinct in the vicinity of the guard-house and gate has been restored and a memorial constructed to those who trained there from the 1940s to the 1990s. I like many others have fond memories of being trained ourselves and training the Regiment's future leaders in the old timber huts and on the nearby hills; as I recall in particular tutoring at least three future Commanding Officers.
A short service was held at the memorial by Chaplain Colin Aitken, followed by a barbeque, it was great to see the old buildings and meet again with old comrades.
World War II Contingent
A good attendance this year for our 62nd Anzac Day march with 21 veterans present against 17 last year — keep it up boys — it’s worth the effort. Our leaders this year were Bill Halliday and Terry Hennessy O.A.M. Seventeen veterans marched and 17 finished — no dropouts!
Those present on the day were:-
Apologies were received from John Kearney on the sick list and David Craven (who now lives in Tasmania) delayed by sickness in his family. Our get-together at the NSW Leagues Club was bolstered by a good group of relatives. It was good to see the large group of "C" Squadron members this year — most of whom live out of Sydney, keep it up boys! Finally thanks again to our wonderful band whose stirring marches loosened many stiff knees.
1948 - 2008 Contingent
The Reserve Forces again took part in the Sydney Anzac Day March with the Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, Major General Warren Glenny, again leading the reserve forces contingent.
Those present in the Lancers’ contingent included: Brian Algie, John Anderson, Ross Baker, Dave Crisp, Merv Cummins, Chris Dawson, Bob Gay, Helen Clarke, Neil Colquhoun, Jeff Darke, Rod Dixon, Brian Dudley, John Duncan, Jim Gellet, Karl Gruber, Ian Hawthorn, Peter Knowland, Athol Sanson, Wal Smith, Joe Tabone and Dave Wood. There was only one past commanding officer this year and that was COL Lee Long. Also, there were two guests marching with the contingent – Kevin Smith (12/16 HRL) and Gerry Wagener (South African Light Horse Regiment). The contingent was again lead by Lieutenant Colonel John Howells and Major Len Koles and assisted by the Association Secretary, Brian Walters.
The contingent was preceded by the full Lancers’ band comprising about 20 members under the command of Sergeant Steve Woods. Once again, many thanks must go to the serving members of the Regiment who marched in the ranks; unfortunately there is not a full list of these but there were a total of about 26 under the command of Corporal Matt Navin. Particular thanks go to the RSM, Alby Chirichilli, for ensuring that these troops were available for the day.
Special thanks go to the seven members of the 203rd Cumberland Cadet Unit from Lancer Barracks who carried the banner and the Australian flag – they are part of the Lancer family as well.
Despite assurances by the RSL that the ranks ahead had been thinned-out by excluding various people, the step off was still delayed until about 1215 hours. The contingent proceeded along the usual route down Martin Place, past the Cenotaph and left wheeled into George Street. The very wet weather that was a nuisance before the contingent was assembled actually held off for our section of the March; the dispersal was again in Elizabeth Street.
After the march, the majority of people once again made their way to the Civic Hotel as this is now the RAAC reunion venue. Others went to the NSW Leagues Club but this usually gets very crowded on Anzac Day.
The combination of the band, cadets, past and serving members made for a very impressive segment of the overall March. It was the best roll call for the Lancers since the reserve units started to take part in the Anzac Day March in 1999 – it is to be hoped this sort of response continues in future years! Thanks to all who took part.
We had a great roll-up for the Reserve Forces Day Parade this year, 85 more than we have ever had before and including quite a few new association members. Even the weather was kind, the prospect of a certificate ensured numbers were up. Assembly outside St Mary's cathedral was under the bright yellow banners of the Catholic World Youth Day Rally, to be held later in July. Major General Warren Glenny AO, RFD, ED and Keith Payne VC inspected the assembled association members whilst Brigadier Philip Bridie inspected the Light Horse re-enactors and historic vehicles. The reviewing dais was outside Parliament House where the reviewing officer Rear Admiral James Goldrick AM, CSC took the salute. The celebration was closed by reading of a message of support from the Prime Minister by his representative Senator Mark Bishop. The reunion in the RAAC Club was a great event, a few quite ales and much fellowship.
Those present were: John Andersen, Ross Baker, Jack Best, David Blackman, Lester Bootes, Nick Brewer, John Burlison, Joe Camilleri, Alan Chapman, John Cook, Harry Crampton, David Crisp, Merv Cummings, Jeffrey Darke, Don Deacon-Bell, Ross Denny, Perce Denton, James Dick, Robert Dickson, Steve Dietmann, Robert Dodds, Pat Donovan, Brian Dudley, Alan Farrell, Brian Ford, Jim Ford, Bob Gay, Warren Glenny, Gerry Graham, Guy Graham, Karl Gruber, John Haynes, Ken Hickey, Barry Hodgson, Chris Holland, Victor Hoog-Antink, John Howells, Rick Jensen, Roy Johnston, Darren Jones, Ray Jones, Peter Knowland, Len Koles, Jack Lamb, Tom Larkin, Dennis Lees, Peter Leslie, Steve Leslie, Michael Lewins, Sam Lind, Colin Macarthur-Hamilton, Mick McConnell, David McEwen-Fergusson, Yvonne McIntyre, John McPhee, Mick Moran, Don Morris, Gordon Muddle, Brian O'Donovan, Peter Philipson, John Plowman, Doug Pollard, Bill Prosser, Jeff Randell, Bruce Reeding, Harold Roberson, Ron Roberts, Athol Sansom, Neville Shaw, Kevin Sinnett, Paul Smith, Walter Smith, Arthur Standring, Brian Staniland, Clarrie Stevens, Joe Tabone , John Vincent, Glenn Wallis, Brian Walters, Geordie Ward, Graham Ware, Bob White, Ray Williams, Jeff Williamson, David Wood, Erik Zakulis.
Thanks very much to the following who made a donation to the NSW Lancers Museum in the past six months:
Brian Algie, Bill Armstrong, Bill Balchin, Gwyn Bent, Norman Bice, Brian Bourke, Valerie Boyton, Harry Britten, Arthur Bulgin, John Burlison, Rod Button, Bert Castellari, Jim Caradus, Les Chipperfield, John Cook, David Craven, John Creswick, Ron Cullen, Jeffrey Darke, James Dick, Ted Fallowfield, Bob Gay, Terry Hennessy, Historic Houses Trust, John Howells, Alan Howitt, Hector Howlett, Norma Jamieson, John Kearney, Jack Lamb, Keith Linnert, Albert Martin , Greg McDiarmid, Joan McDonald, John McManus, Don Morris, Marcia Newton, Doug Pollard, Eddie Polley, Edna Rodd, Jack Rolfe, Ron Rope, Jim Squires, Arthur Standring, Bob Stenhouse, Vincent Strohmayer, Peter Teague, Dan Tesoriero, Col Watson, Don Watson, Wilma Wilson, E. Wright.
Thanks very much to the following who made a donation to the Royal New South Wales Lancers Association in the past six months:
Bill Armstrong, Bill Balchin, Max Bell, Brian Bourke, Jim Breakwell, Harry Britten, David Brown, Arthur Bulgin, John Burlison, Rod Button, Bert Castellari, Les Chipperfield, John Cook, David Craven, Ron Cullen, Jack Curran, Jack Curtayne, Jeffrey Darke, Ted Fallowfield, Bob Gay, Terry Hennessy, Hector Howlett , Frank (Snow) Irvine, Norma Jamieson, Roy Jessup, John Kearney, Jack Lamb, Chris Lawley, Keith Linnert, Ken Lowe, Jean Macdonald, Albert Martin, Joan McDonald, John McManus, Don Morris, Doug Pinnington, Jack Rolfe, Ron Rope, Jim Squires, Arthur Standring, Bob Stenhouse, Alan Stewart, Vincent Strohmayer, Peter Teague, Dan Tesoriero, Grant Troup, Col Watson, Col Williamson, Wilma Wilson, E. Wright.
The Royal NSW Lancers Association and the NSW Lancers Museum operate because of your generosity. Please take the time to make a donation (Click Here for online submission Click Here for .pdf download to fax or post) and make a donation to the Association and/or Museum. Payment can be made by credit card, single cheque or money order. Donations to the Museum are tax deductible. Filling in and sending the response sheet also keeps your details current in our records.
We also need volunteers, in particular tour guides. There are working bees every Thursday, and the second Sunday of each month. Simply turn up, join up and you will be put to work.
Sunday 17 August 2008 – All British day at the Kings’ School.
Saturday 1 November 2008 - Fishers Ghost Campbelltown 1 November.
Sunday 2 November 2008 will see another major Lancer reunion just like last year. The regimental association will conduct it at Lancer Barracks commencing 11:00 and finishing around 15:00. It will be an opportunity for those who marched on Anzac and Reserve Forces Day to meet again, and for those for whom a march is a bit onerous to join in. The Museum will be open, a barbeque luncheon will be provided at a small cost, and drinks will be at mess prices. Please use the electronic response sheet or .pdf response sheet to give us an idea of the numbers.
Membership of the RAACA is free to all applicants over 75, and only $10 per annum 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"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, email@example.com Tel: +61 (0)405 482 814, Fax: +61 (0)2 4733 3951.
© New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated
ABN 94 630 140 881 - - - Site Updated October 2018
Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, Parramatta NSW 2150, Australia
Telephone +61 (0)405 482 814, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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