Scientia ac Labore
Queensland University Regiment
RURQ Course 25 (Graduated Nov 1991) - 20 Year Reunion
As CO QUR I was pleased to recently host a 20 year reunion of my RURQ 1991 graduating class, Course 25. Of the 15 who graduated, at Gatton, 20 years ago nine were able to attend.
It was a wonderful evening as we reminisced about our time in officer training and caught up with career and family news. It was as if we finished Module-5 two months ago, not two decades ago. We even shared two bottles of our graduation port, which, like us, has improved with age!
We raised a glass in remembrance to our course mate, LT Jonathan King (RAN), who died when he was copilot of the Sea King that crashed on operations during OP TSUNAMI ASSIST in 2005.
Of the 15 graduates, three went onto a career the Regular Army with one continuing to serve. I am the only member still active in the Army Reserve. The remainder have gone on to interesting and diverse careers in fields such as international business, banking, human resources, mining, small business, aviation, entertainment and teaching.
I suppose my military career started when I became a cadet at the Brisbane Grammar School I recall serving as Platoon Sergeant in the Platoon commanded by Cadet Under Officer John Pearn, now Major General RAAMC, and currently Honorary Colonel of the Regiment. In my final year I became a Cadet Under Officer and my platoon won the inter-platoon competition, but the high point was doing the jungle warfare indoctrination course at Canungra. Joining the Queensland University Regiment seemed like a natural progression.
My first exposure to the Regiment was in 1959 when I heard an address from then Major Peter Connolly during orientation week. He told us that it was a chance to serve Queen and Country and a chance to match oneself against men. Then there was of course the added bonus of getting paid as well. It struck a chord with me as I had seriously considered trying out for entrance to Duntroon but decided against it. QUR sounded like the next best thing and there was also the national service obligation to consider.
At the time there was the “old” National Service scheme in place but it was being wound back and by then it was selection by lottery which I had been lucky enough to win. I decided that I would get in early and have a years training before I was called up. In fact I would have been the very last intake but it was cancelled so I never became a “nasho”. However I certainly met a few along the way.
I was attested in April just in time to get issued and be ready for the annual camp and bivouac which was held in the May University holidays at Greenbank. Starting as a private second class one has to know ones place and I got off to a rather bad start. I was due to receive my Queens Scout badge at Government House on the first day of camp. It was all very sticky but somehow I got leave and it all fitted in.
Now at the time QUR functioned as a National Service battalion for the University of Queensland. National Service men did their three months continuous training in the Christmas University Holidays and then served out the balance of their time in QUR which scheduled all training activities on weekends so as not to interfere with study time. It was a large machine with I think around one thousand men and I seem to recall a couple of female typists. Most of the Nashos were anything but happy in the service and weren’t slow to tell you so. I think it is fair to say that I learnt more about the workings of the army in that first year than the next ten put together.
I was posted to a platoon in B Company as I recall it commanded by a LT David White who had a rather brusque efficient manner, but, ran a good platoon. He also sported a green commando beret which impressed me no end. My platoon “buddy” was Tom Fenwick another volunteer. We knew each other from school which was good. Tom later reached director general rank in the public service in the three areas of primary industries, natural resources and health no doubt helped along by those formative years in QUR. Our company commander was a very young looking Major Sam Harrison later brigadier who later became amongst other things CO and Hon. Colonel. Our CO was LTCOL. Tom Parslow who was somewhat a father figure and widely respected. Then of course there was the ARA Cadre staff most very good and some mediocre but all doing their job. There seemed to be an understanding that CMF NCOs could not give an order to an ARA member of lower rank. This made for some interesting times and some of the graduates found ways to give certain ARA members a hard time.
Junior ARA members must have hated being posted to QUR. However, the RSM and WO1’s were firmly in control of the situation nearly all of them having served in World War 2 or Korea. Their combat experience was invaluable and they were held in high regard. They realized that some of the future leaders of the services would pass through their hands and this was their chance to put their stamp on them.
Now news travels fast in the ranks and word went around that I was a bloody volunteer. I was confronted by a delegation of “the men” to ascertain whether this was in fact true. I can still remember their incredulous looks. They really thought I must be insane. They demanded to know whether I was going to be one of “them” or one of “us”. With great insight I answered that I was going to be one of us so I was accepted and allocated a mentor. My immediate army career was assured.
Camp of 59 was a memorable occasion as apparently the preceding one had also been. Camp of 58 had been held in the Wiangaree State Forest just south of the border. I heard many stories related about it from people like Tom Mathews Peter Scott and John Caltabiano, All complained loud and long about service life but secretly I think they enjoyed it. Tom later joined the regular army as a dentist and then stayed on in the ARES until he retired. I also heard from Dave Sallows of the failed air drop because of cloud which was reported on in the press rather dramatically as “Troops Starve”. No doubt leaked to the press by some disgruntled digger.
The camp of 59 was held at Greenbank and it was initially wet and cold with lots of mud. The first week was devoted to platoon training and the second week to battalion exercises. Fortunately because of my cadet training I had no trouble fitting in. The platoon training was uneventful but the Battalion training was rather memorable.
The battalion exercises started off with a Navigation Exercise which ran from Redbank Plains to White Rock then back to Greenbank. It was a one day lead in exercise. We were split up into section strength and we all went off independently. Now I can honestly say that our section found and got to the top of Whites Rock which is more than many others could say but the last leg back to Greenbank was to prove our undoing.
It was through undulating featureless country grassy but at times heavily wooded and for some obscure reason we got somewhat lost but for that mater so did nearly all the rest as well. By night fall hundreds of men were stretched far and wide over the countryside but by some miracle most sections seemed to meet up on a dirt road out the back of nowhere. We had been told that stragglers would be guided home by a pyrotechnics display and sure enough there it was 2 inch mortar flares illuminating a faint glow in the distance. Not a good sight.
Command was established amazingly quickly and fires built along the road for the men to huddle between. It was very cold and we only had shirts so we were roasted on one side and frozen on the other. It was decided that a recce patrol should be sent out to size up the situation. It consisted of four of us and for some reason I found myself on it together with David Martin who later became a well known general surgeon. After walking for some time we chanced upon a house and a slightly startled very nice person let us ring Greenbank. Unit H.Q. was by this time getting slightly desperate and a rescue mission was launched immediately.
Soon a number of trucks and MAJ Sam Harrison arrived on the scene. MAJ Harrison set off along the road firing blanks in the air to attract lost souls. Transport back to camp
was aboard a semi trailer and a number of Ford CL’s. I have never seen such loaded vehicles but no one was complaining. It was back to camp in the early hours of the morning cold, hungry and tired for a short sleep then up early for the battalion tactical exercise. It was not a moment of great glory but it was a good recovery and a lot of lessons learnt. A letter appeared in Semper Floreat soon after, written by some student sympathetic to the communist cause pointing out how incompetent the Australian Army was and how it would never have happened in Mother Russia. It was after all the height of the cold war.
The three day tactical exercise was as usual the high point of the camp. It involved a battalion move up into the Spring Mountain area tactically along a road by foot and as we started off our platoon was in the lead. Our first contact took place at a creek crossing not far from Greenbank camp. The plan was to mount a platoon attack and it was necessary for the Bren group to race across a convenient log across the creek to give covering fire. According to Murphy’s Law the inevitable happened and the Bren group and the gun disappeared off the log and into the water. Fortunately the enemy melted away but the company commander was not impressed.
Following the excitement there was a long hard slog up into the hills along the road. We were no longer in the lead so there was no more excitement for us. It was cold and one of the warrant officers had Korean style warm head gear on. A jeep came past carrying the senior Major Peter Connolly who was 2IC he was in the habit of wearing a sheep skin jacket on manoeuvres. He called out to the WO2 ”which Q store did you get that hat from sarmajor” To which he replied: “The same bloody Q store you got that jacket from Sir” The jeep drove on.
By late afternoon we reached our objective and our company defensive position was on top of a steep ridge which was frequently attacked by enthusiastic gents in black berets throwing thunder flashes and firing blanks. Thunder flashes were one third of a stick of gelignite and were reputed to be able to completely demolish a slouch hat. They also kept you awake. Now being somewhat cheesed off by all this someone decided to put out a standing patrol to give us some warning. It was close country and some how or other they found themselves behind an enemy attack. This was an interesting tactical dilemma. An enterprising private by the name of John Lockwood who later became a member of State Parliament for Toowoomba, and his patrol, decided on the daring move of capturing the enemy platoon commander whom he approached from behind. In the fog of war and the exchange that followed the said officer accidentally sustained a wound with brass fragments from a blank fired by persons unknown. This necessitated a casualty evacuation and it certainly did abort that attack. We learnt from that exercise that the old brass blanks could be quite dangerous. It was all a little sobering.
On that exercise we were being supplied with fresh rations delivered in hot boxes from Greenbank which was very nice and it would appear that to relieve the boredom the transport section had a competition to see who could do the trip in a jeep with trailer in the fastest time. The inevitable happened and a trailer turned over which led to some hungry and very disgruntled diggers that evening.
Life in a National Service Battalion was never dull. QUR contained a great number of very unwilling very talented soldiers and this made for some very interesting inter reaction. There was one private in our platoon called Brad Harvey who after the Wiangaree camp adopted the title of “jungle fighter Harvey”. The mind boggles at the story behind that one. At roll call every morning he would answer Private Harvey National Serviceman, so many days hours, minutes and seconds to go. He usually raised a bit of a laugh. One day someone I think it may have been Brad, went AWOL, apparently he had an important party to go to in Brisbane. He turned up later and was duly charged with being AWOL. Apparently in his defence he said: - “Well it was all your fault Sir, you told us that if ever we got lost we should follow running water to the sea and that’s just what I did and I ended up in Brisbane. I got back as soon as I could”. Apparently it didn’t work.
There was one national serviceman whose name I won’t’ mention although I don’t think he would mind who would have broken any good NCOs heart. His slouch hat could only be described as decrepit and worn at a peculiar angle. His uniform was permanently dishevelled and in disrepair and as a long distance runner he walked with a slow loping gait dragging his 303 along by the foresight with the butt on the ground, at least when the RSM wasn’t around. Fines did little in these cases and it was not uncommon for a National Serviceman to lose most of his pay in fines.
A memorable occasion for me occurred on the last day of camp when I was unexpectedly summonsed to the kitchen area to help clean out the grease traps. Well it was quite an experience as I had never even seen a grease trap before. Some poor unfortunate ARA NCO and myself set to it. I can still remember the rather overpowering smell. At first I thought it must have been some form of punishment but it transpires that they couldn’t get a nasho to do it so they appointed a volunteer. It was a good character building experience.
Life after the 59 camp was fairly routine training to confront the Russians somewhere in the Middle East sometime. There was however the exception of the very proud occasion of the presentation of the Queen’s and Regimental colours to the unit. Now for a lad who had at one stage aspired to go to Duntroon I actually didn’t mind a bit of drill and enjoyed the spectacle of a good parade and was looking forward to the big occasion. Nearly all training time was devoted to drill and parade preparation overseen by a determined RSM WO1 Farrelly. Even the Nashos were grudgingly getting into the spirit of things.
Not long before the big day I was told to report to the Company Commander who told me that I had been picked to look after a microphone on the day and therefore I would not be marching. It appeared that the microphone had to be carried on and off the athletics oval which was where the parade was being held and the word was that Headquarters was worried that a Nasho might stuff it up on purpose so it was not on account of my drill after all.
Well I managed the microphone OK and as my duties included standing nearby the dais I had much the same view as the reviewing officer. It was a great spectacle and a magic moment for me that I still remember clearly to this day. The Nashos did the Regiment proud that day as usual helped on by RSM Farrelly who deserved a great deal of the credit.
I know that many of the National Service men were proud of that moment also. Particularly impressive was the march past in slow time always a tricky exercise particularly on grass. I was disappointed at not being with my platoon but, I did later get to troop the colours twice and once in the colour party itself but there was never quite the atmosphere of that first occasion.
On one occasion when we were to troop the colours on the university athletics oval I think it may have been the following year the heavens opened up and the spectacle had to be cancelled so soldiers, visitors and dignitaries all gathered in the depot for tea and sandwiches. After an interval the CO wished to address the crowd and I was told to get everyone’s attention which was no easy matter as the noise level from the chatter was quite high so I had to turn the volume up on the parade ground voice and yelled “Quiet the CO wishes to speak” I may have overdone it a bit and the confined space did magnify things a little. Anyway it had a slightly stunning effect. I think Chancellors etc weren’t used to being spoken to like that so the CO had to issue a bit of an apology. It will probably be the only time in my life that I shall be able to tell that August crowd to be quiet.
At the end of camp 59 COL Parslow had foreshadowed the end of National Service “unless we get another scare” and he was correct. The National Service scheme was stopped at the end of 59 and the Regiment was restructured as an Officer Training school to produce CMF officers. However the scares kept coming including the “Cuban Missile Crisis” This change to the unit was to have a profound effect on my army career. MAJ P Connolly was promoted to LTCOL and was posted as CO.
Now being a volunteer and having shown some interest I had been offered the chance of doing the corporals course in the August University holidays of 59. It was a great opportunity. It was a two weeks course run by the ARA Cadre staff at the Regiment. Tom Fenwick was there along with Ron Schultz. I seem to remember that Ron got a special commendation for one of his lesson plans on “Train Fire” which was then a fairly new concept, but as he pointed out it was already being used by the Russians.
I later ran into Ron again when I was seconded to 144 Parachute Field Ambulance at Chelsea Barracks London, whilst I was working and studying in the U.K. Ron was living permanently in London and had joined the Territorial Army (equivalent to our ARES) He was by then a Coy Commander with a parachute battalion part of the Territorial Parachute Brigade to which I was attached. Ron was well liked and respected and was a fine officer. I think he had a streak of the old pirate in him somewhere.
Anyway I enjoyed the course greatly and looking back I realize what a high standard it was. We were lucky to have those ARA WO’s they had all seen active service either in WW2 or in Korea and they had a certain way about them. I remember asking one of them one day what it was like to be under fire so he brought in some photos of himself as a young soldier in action in New Guinea. They had been taken by the news correspondent I suppose and the expressions on people’s faces showed a high degree of attention the job in hand which was firing a mortar. I passed along with most of us and was duly given two stripes.
In early 60 I was summoned to the CO’s office. COL Connolly asked me if I would forego the officer training course to join the instructional team that was being formed. It would delay my commission but he pointed out that the experience would make me a better officer. He proved to be correct on both counts.
In short order I was promoted to Temporary Sergeant then Temporary WO2 as an instructor. I enjoyed my time with the instructional wing greatly. A high standard was set for instruction and I learnt a great deal particularly how to talk and teach skills that have served me well through life. I recall the names of two other instructors one was David Horan and the other was John Taske who later became an RAAMC Colonel and amongst other things climbed Mt Everest. He is currently an anaesthetist in Brisbane. My duties lay in the area of small arms and drill. I still remember with pride a commendation given to the CO by some members of the old army instruction team from WW2 who were visiting the unit and watching our bayonet training lesson.
Around this time khaki uniforms were dyed green. Some came out a little patchy. We were also issued with the new SLR. The word was that we were the first CMF unit to get it in Queensland and we were asked to test them out so along with the ARA cadre staff we took our SLR’s and a great pile of filled magazines out to the Redbank range and shot sequences until we had all had enough. It was a great weapon but it was less robust than the 303.
When I came off the range I couldn’t hear properly for days. It transpired that the SLR was louder and had a higher frequency. Unfortunately my ears were very sensitive and suffered some damage. Later of course personnel were required to wear ear protection, but, ear protection was not in vogue in those days. This was to be the beginning of the end of my infantry career. Further ear damage eventually forced me to change corps, but, before that I had the privilege of teaching many recruits how to handle weapons and the parade ground.
One of the most formative experiences at this time was many happy hours spent in the Sergeant’s mess. I learnt to drink rum and coke which is one of my favourite drinks to this day. Many a good song was sung in the evenings and I learnt the words to quite a few. Dave Sallows seemed to have an inexhaustible repertoire. Friends were made that I still see occasionally today such as Bill Kidston who went to 2/14th QMI. I hope this spirit still lives on. Even in the mess one could learn a point or two. I remember on one occasion mouthing off with the ignorance of youth about infantry and air power being all that was needed. I was quietly taken aside by one of the ARA WO’s who patiently explained to me the trinity of infantry, artillery and armour.
The sergeants mess was in fact a bit of a home from home and many a cool beer or crisp rum and coke were drunk there with the likes of Pat O’Keefe who became a long serving member of the ARES. I do recall one older larrikin type who had served in Korea and was posted as bar steward. He obviously enjoyed drink himself often on our shout. I recall one day him recounting his experiences fighting the Chinese in Korea. Apparently one fired wildly at anything coming up the rather steep hill and rolled as many grenades down as possible. Fortunately it seemed the ammo supply was not a problem. Not all stewards were necessarily completely honest and on one camp at Wacol so much meat was going missing from our rations that something had to be done. A covert guard was placed around the rations store and when the unit ambulance was being loaded up in the dead of night the perpetrators were caught and charged. It is an unfortunate fact that there is always an element around willing to steal from their mates.
From time to time plots were hatched in the sergeant’s mess and perhaps one of the most disastrous was when the sergeants after a formal dinner decided to smarten up the drivers for some reason or another. Anyway it was decided to hose them out by suddenly opening the doors at both ends of their Nissen hut and cleaning the place with fire hoses. In retrospect it was not a smart or good thing to do but this was somehow lost in the haze of sergeants mess camaraderie. During the melee I was knocked off the stair head first into a rose bush and in my blues as well. They bore a small tear from then on. Being rather tangled I was slow to get away and I was the only one caught by the duty officer and piquet. Everyone else had fled. The result was not good for me particularly being a warrant officer. I was duly paraded before the CO the following morning.
Now COL Connelly may have run a tight ship but he was a fair man who obviously had a good understanding of affairs at the lower end of the regiment and the workings of the sergeant’s mess. Anyway fortunately for me he informed the duty officer that he was sure it was all a misunderstanding and that no damage had been done and that N.C.O’s sometimes did go a little raucous and that was the end of the matter. This came as a great surprise to the duty officer and myself and of course it was a matter of great relief.
The duty officer concerned was a Duntroon graduate studying at U.Q. and was of course only doing his job. No doubt he went onto bigger and better things. There was another Duntroon officer attached also a LT Bardy. He was a fine officer and universally liked. He was posted to Vietnam and was working with the Mountanyard hill people. Tragically he was killed whilst being inserted by helicopter. His fiancé who I had met was understandably distraught and down on the army and there was a sense of great loss amongst us. They were so suited to each other. I have never forgotten her grief.
It brought home to me the serious side of the business.
The other plot worth mentioning was officially sanctioned and originated in the officer’s mess. It occurred when after trooping the colours at Wacol the colours were being marched back along a road flanked by tennis courts on which some off duty ARA personnel were playing. Unfortunately they did not stop playing or acknowledge the colours which caused a high degree of angst in the unit. It was decided that the pay back would take the form of depositing a decomposing horse which had been noted by the transport platoon onto their tennis court. This was a combined Officer NCO effort that restored the honour of the unit.
Anzac days were always big at the Regiment. We used to mount guard on the memorial on top of the hill in the park at Toowong. Not far from where the present memorial is and on at least one occasion I had the honour of being in the catafalque party. I remember hearing one emotional speech given by an ex RAAF type recounting how his mates went up in Wirraways against Jap Zeros in New Guinea to an almost certain death. There was a message there. The afternoon and evening was a joint “party” with the Toowong RSL held at the Regiment and extending well into the night at a time when Anzac days were ‘dry’ for the public. The whole depot was full in more than one way and the grassy strip behind the depot was apparently well used at least according to the CO who chanced to spring a few couples there. One got the feeling that he may have wished he was a 20 year old again.
Around this time camps were being held at Wacol and students were graduating and being commissioned. We had some help from the ARA but most of the instruction we did ourselves. In 1960 I seem to recall a recruit one Dennis Luttrell who was to become one of the regiments most illustrious members reaching the rank of Major General and amongst other things HON COL of the Regiment. There was a time when the majority of senior ARES officers in Queensland had passed through QUR, and of course many officers went on to fill important positions in the fabric of society such as Justice George Fryberg .
As a WO2 instructor I did not find myself having to administer discipline in the same way as a Company Sarmajor and I can say I never charged a soldier in my entire career. There was always other ways of doing things, however, there was one occasion that was quite testing. I was duty NCO one evening in Wacol when we were collocated with an ARA construction squadron of engineers recently returned from building bridges in PNG. Most were awaiting discharge. Engineers are renowned for being tough and liking a drink and they were apparently making too much noise, so the duty officer sent me over to shut them up. In I walked and in my best parade ground voice yelled QUIET… . There was a stunned silence. I don’t think they could believe that an ARES 20 years something youth would tell them what to do. They looked at me then ignored me and went back to it perhaps a little quieter. Well I had done my job and the duty officer was obviously not keen to try his luck. The joys of being an NCO.
LTCOL Connolly was promoted and moved on. He gave quite an emotional farewell speech in which he told us that there were many types of commands in the army but none were like commanding a Battalion or Regiment. COL Connolly was followed by LTCOL Springhall. Springy was a soldier’s soldier. He had seen action as a commando in World War 11 I think in Timor. He was a good Commanding Officer and the Unit prospered under his leadership. We were all saddened by his later passing away. I had left the unit before Major Sam Harrison became C.O. under his command the unit continued to grow in stature and importance. He was of course later to become Brigadier Commander of 7 Brigaide, senior ARES officer in Queensland and later Honorary Colonel of the Regiment amongst other appointments.
After four years of service with QUR. I had to leave because of gunfire induced hearing problems, but I could not tell anyone as I was afraid I might be discharged from the ARES on medical grounds. Some people I feel were surprised by my unexpected transfer but of course I was the loser as I never got to serve on in QUR and assume a more senior position. It was a difficult time for me. However, I did serve on in the ARES in both dental and medical corps and had many happy and some character building experiences.
I transferred out of the Regiment in 1963 to the RAADC. In due course I became OC of 1 and 15 Dental Units. Following this I was seconded to 144 Parachute Field Ambulance at Chelsea Barracks London. It did prove to be on of the highlights of my ARES career. On return to Australia I served with CSTU and the 41 Dental Training Unit in Sydney. On return to Brisbane I transferred to the RAAMC and was posted to 2 Field Hospital commanded by the then LTCOL Pearn. I served as his 2IC and training officer. They were good times. At one stage we looked like being deployed to Afghanistan as the Russians were becoming a threat there. Following that I served as SO2 health on HQ Div. It was a good and meaningful experience. On my promotion to LTCOL I was posted as SO1 Health 1 M.D.
It was all immensely satisfying but it couldn’t compare with those years in QUR. Service in QUR was a very formative part of my life and I look back on it with great affection.
In what year?
Who was the CO QUR for this attachment?
Soon after another female was accepted into Portsea to begin a military career. Who was that member?
which officer driver smashed the truck into a bridge thereby destroying the cabinets?
one officer had his boots painted with two white lines on them.
What was his name and what were the boots called?
for the answers
This article was printed in the last "Reservist" journal sent out by DRA.