Commando News Issue 13 2018


Commando News Magazine Australia


Registered by Australia Post ~ Publication No PP100016240

Edition 13 ~ 2018

This photo was taken in the Gulf States. The fatal jump was in 2015, a tandem jump, which Tony Rokov took the full impact

thus saving the life of his 14-year-old student. He was awarded the Star of Courage for his extraordinary bravery.


The Happy Wanderer

Michael Parker Foundation ~ Kshamawati Hostel Project

Commando Memorial Service 2018

HALO Parachuting in Australia ~ The Early Days





LIFE PATRON: Gen Sir Phillip Bennett AC KBE DSO

Message from the Editor...................................3

From the Prolific Pen of Harry Bell....................5

Vale section..................................................7-11

HALO Parachuting in Australia

“The Early Days” ...................................13-19












MajGen Tim McOwan AO DSC CSM

MajGen Greg Melick AO RFD SC

Maj Steve Pilmore OAM

Maj Jack Thurgar SC MBE OAM RFD


Maj Bruce O’Connor OAM (Ret’d)

Doug Knight

Glenn MacDonald

Barry Grant

Commando Memorial Service

Anzac Day address.....................................21

Ex Commando sacrifices himself

for young parachutist ................................22

The Happy Wanderer................................25-27

Chief of Army bans soldiers from

wearing ‘arrogant’ death symbols.............29

Michael Parker Foundation .............................30

Book Review ....................................................35

Little known facts about the wall....................37

ACA NSW Bruce Poulter - 0414 891 854







PRESIDENT: Alan Joyce - 0447 433 934

ACA WA Paul Shearer - 0400 522 059



Aust Cdo Assn NSW “Q” Store......................41

Aust Cdo Assn QLD..................................45-51

Membership Application Form .......................55

State Incorporated Associations.....................56

Deadline for next edition (Issue 14):


All news on members and interesting articles accepted.

(Subject to editors’ approval.)

Barry G


Barry Grant

Barbara Pittaway

The Australian Commando Association’s membership consists of

Servicemen who have served with Independent Companies, Commando

Squadrons, "M" and "Z" Special units and Special Forces during and since

the Second World War.

DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed within this publication are those of the

authors, and are not necessarily those of the Editor, Publisher, Committee

Members or Members of our Association. We welcome any input as long

as it is not offensive or abusive but if any member has a problem with a

printed article we would like to be informed in order that the author may be

contacted. We do encourage your opinion.


Registered by Australia Post ~ Publication No PP100016240

Edition 13 ~ 2018

Official Publishers:

Statewide Publishing P/L

ABN 65 116 985 187


PHONE: 0432 042 060



Phone: 0438 881 854


This photo was taken in the Gulf States. The fatal jump was in 2015, a tandem jump, which Tony Rokov took the full impact

thus saving the life of his 14-year-old student. He was awarded the Star of Courage for his extraordinary bravery.


The Happy Wanderer

Michael Parker Foundation ~ Kshamawati Hostel Project

Commando Memorial Service 2018

HALO Parachuting in Australia ~ The Early Days

FRONT COVER: This photo was taken in the Gulf States.

The fatal jump was in 2015, a tandem jump, which Tony

Rokov took the full impact thus saving the life of his

14-year-old student. He was awarded the Star of Courage

for his extraordinary bravery.

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 1

2 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

Australian Commando Association

NSW Inc.

PO Box 1313, Sutherland, NSW 1499


1941 - 1946 1955


President: Barry Grant Secretary: Bruce Poulter Treasurer: Ivan Kelly

0414 914 615 0414 891 854 0417 042 886

Message from the Editor

As we go to press, another Timor Awakening team

is preparing to go back to Timor Leste.

Among them is 94-year-old Ian Hampel, 2nd/4th

Independent Company.

Ian landed on East Timor as it was known during

WW2, on the ill fated HMAS Voyager in the southern

shores at Betano.

Ian marched the full distance on Anzac Day in

Sydney so there’s no doubt he can handle the trip.

I have been trying to contact him for a couple of

weeks, finally ringing his son to find out he is snow


God bless him.


The passing of Bruce Horsfield was a sad event, he

had been working on the SAS documentary DVD

series for about 17 years and just a few short weeks

ago was awarded an OAM for contributions to military

history. He also completed another on Long Tan, also

acclaimed DVD.


Wayne Havenaar (ex 1 Company) has issued a

warning order for a small craft reunion paddle.

It will be held in late

October, paddle from

Shelley Beach, Manly

to Balmoral Beach to

Clifton Gardens.

All small craft

qualified (also the non

qualified who can

paddle) are invited.

Paddle some of the

trip or all of the trip,

just paddle to Clifton Gardens or just come and join

the picnic at the end.

More details to follow.


Just a heads up.

AGM of ACA NSW will be held on Satur day, 20th

October 2018.

More details will be sent out by email and post to

financial members ASAP.


The last Reserve Forces Parade was held on 1st

July after 20 years of parading.

Seems it lost the interest of

a lot of donors and the ADF

has said that the difference

between Regular Forces and

the Reservists is "blurred" in

the modern age.

Barry Grant

Australian Commando

Association (NSW) Inc

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 3

4 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

From the Prolific Pen of Harry Bell

Dear Editors,

Well, here I am sitting on my bed in Anthem

Nursing Home. I came into hospital on 31/5 for hip

surgery and hope to be home soon. I can’t offer a full

length story but will try to do better next time when I

have access to my library.

TedMacMillan (2/9) has survived repair of a hernia

which he has been wearing for a while waiting for his

cardiologist to give the green light.

Defence has resumed the publication of unit

names with their death notices and Reveille mentions

the following: NX145462 R Foster (2/5), NX108777

CJ Monty (2/3), NX77745 K G Wilson (2/2). Keith’s

tank is given as Gnr - I’ll try to check when I get home.

MV Flower of 3 Cav Regt is listed as is NX11703 Lloyd

Hendry (2/9). I have been in touch with Lloyd’s son Ian

and will write a decent obituary for next edition.

Reg Davis (Davis RTR) 2/9 is back in St George

Hospital with acute fluid retention which may relate to

heart or liver or kidleys. (Well I said “kidleys”, diddle

I?) He is decidedly unwell but the nearest he gets to

cursing is “Golly golly golly!”. We are already making

plans for next Anzac Day.

Barry Grant tells me that Ian Hampel (2/4) is back

in Timor Leste, courtesy Commando Association.

Bravo. I hope Ian will write a full report.

Barry you may have noticed errors in last night’s

email. Lloyd Hendry’s number was of course NX not


All good things to you.

Thats all for now.



Further to Harry's spiel, I visited Reg

in St George Hospital.

He is in good spirits and was

pleased to see me.

If the current treatment is not helpful

he may be transferred to the St. George Private.

Barry G

One evening, shortly after the honeymoon,

Tom was working on his Harley motorcycle in the

garage. His wife was standing there by the bench

watching him.

After a long period of silence she finally said:

"Honey, I've just been thinking, now that we’re

married, maybe it's time you quit spending so

much of your time out here in your garage.

You probably should consider selling your

Harley and all that welding equipment; they take

up so much of your time.

And that gun collection and fishing gear, they

just take up so much space.

And you know the sailboat is such an ongoing

expense; and you hardly use it.

I also think you should lose all those stupid

model airplanes and your home brewing


And what’s the use of that vintage hot rod

sports car?”

Tom got a horrified look on his face.

She noticed and said, "Darling, what's wrong?"

He replied, "There for a minute, you were

starting to sound like my ex-wife."

"Ex-wife!?" she shouted, "YOU NEVER TOLD


Tom replied, “I wasn't..."

ACA NSW members on Timor Awakening

Ivan Kelly, David Lynch and Bill Merchant re -

presented ACANSW on the Timor Awakening trip

earlier this year.

They were very impressed with the reception and

friendliness of the Timorese people.

Their tour took them from Dili to Betano where the

remains of the HMAS Voyager can be seen from the


It was here that they inserted the 2nd/4th

Independent Company, but the ship became beached

and they had to leave behind the 2nd/2nd Company

that they were due to replace.

Next month, September, another 3 members of the

Association are travelling to Dili on yet another Timor

Awakening adventure.

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 5

6 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

Investiture of OAM for Bruce Horsfield

Recently 40 people

gathered in Kirribilli to

observe Bruce getting

his OAM. Due to ill

health he was unable to

go to Government


The State Governor,

General Hurley AC DSC

Ret'd and his wife

attended to make the


Also in attendance

was the former

Governor General of

Australia Major General

Mike Jeffery AC AO

(Mil) CVO MC Ret'd

and his wife.

We are very proud

of Bruce, notably he

has produced video

histories of Long Tan

and the History of the


In Bruce's early days he was a pioneer in civilian HALO parachuting, the stories of that issue raises the hair on the

back of your neck.

John Addison

Douglas Allen

Jack Tredrea

Bruce Horsfield OAM

Jim Geedrick

Jack Mackay OAM


2 Commando Company

2 Commando Company

SRD (Z Special Unit)

1 Commando Company


Z Special Unit

John Addison Douglas Allen Jack Tredrea Bruce Horsfield OAM Jim Geedrick Jack MAckay OAM

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 7


Commando who led a platoon of headhunters in

Borneo, but did not get the message that the war had

ended in August 1945.

Jack Tredrea was part of the elite Z Special unit

during the Second World War

Emperor Hirohito had announced Japan’s surrender

in mid-August 1945 and the Second World War was

officially finished, but no one had told an Australian

commando who was leading a platoon of headhunters

against Japanese forces in the Borneo jungle.

Warrant Officer II Jack Tredrea fought on, con -

tinuing to harass and ambush the enemy with rifle fire,

grenades, parangs and a silent assault by poison dart

propelled from a blowpipe.

Come the third week of October, and unaware that

his radio had come to grief in a river, the Allied

authorities put a stop to it. Major Tom Harrisson, a

British officer commanding the Special Operations

Executive campaign in Borneo, sent a runner with a

written order: “The war is over, Tredrea, get out the

best way you can.”

Tredrea paid off his fighters and travelled home by

riverboat and aircraft, reverting to his peacetime, and

peaceful, calling as a tailor of suits for the good

burghers of Adelaide.

Jonathan “Jack” Tredrea was born in 1920 in

Adelaide and left school the day he turned 14 to work

as a messenger boy for the bespoke tailor. He showed

some promise as an Australian rules footballer, playing

for the South Adelaide club, building muscle and

stamina by cycling round the suburbs with deliveries.

Volunteering for military service, Tredrea served

initially as a medic in the Australian 6th Cavalry Field

Ambulance. This equipped him with skills that, a few

years later, would make him a revered figure among

the Kelabit people of Borneo.

Seeking adventure, he answered a notice calling for

volunteers to serve in a “special unit”. The senior

officer who interviewed him had been a customer of

the tailor’s, and Tredrea was soon dispatched to Fraser

Island, off the Queensland coast, for training that

changed him from a cutter of cloth to a cutter of


Tredrea found that he had volunteered for the elite,

top-secret Z Special unit. There followed a year of

intensive instruction in weaponry, unarmed combat,

languages, surveillance, sabotage, living off the land

and jumping out of aircraft. His assignment, at the end

of that year, was Borneo. A sea approach was too

hazardous, so in late March 1945 two B-24 Liberators

took off with a payload of eight Z Special paratroopers.

Tredrea’s task was to recruit sympathetic inhabitants

and lead them, as a trained guerrilla force, against the

occupying Japanese. He jumped out of the aircraft with

a sub-machinegun, six grenades, medical supplies and

a cyanide pill, which was to be swallowed in the event

of capture and interrogation by the Japanese.

His medical expertise brought him immediate

success. A village head man asked Tredrea to treat an

old friend afflicted by a large lump in the groin. In the

absence of any anaesthetic, Tredrea ordered two men

to hold his patient down, lanced the growth, removed

what he described later as “masses of pus” and packed

the wound with sulfa powder.

The old man made a spectacular recovery and

Tredrea, his reputation established, soon had his

guerrilla recruits. “They were incredibly brave, but they

could give your position away because they were so

impulsive,” he recalled in 2014. “You had to control

them, or they’d go on the attack with their parangs and

their blowpipes. They really were headhunters.”

Describing a typical ambush of a Japanese patrol,

he added: “By the use of blowpipes, we used to

quietly pick off the Japs from the rear of line. ‘Pfft!’ ”

Back in Australia after the war Tredrea was awarded

the Military Medal for “remarkable energy, un selfish -

ness and devotion to duty”. Meanwhile, in 1943 he had

married Edith Anna Bongiorno. Their first daughter,

Leonie Pinkerton, became a bookkeeper and died of

cancer in 1997 aged 53. Their second daughter,

Lynnette Behn, worked as a taxation consultant and

survives him. Edith died in 2006.

Both daughters had some taste of the commando

life. Their father introduced them to the art of the

blowpipe, although without the poison. He also placed

mattresses by the back veranda and trained them to

leap off the roof, landing with a paratrooper’s roll.

Between 1993 and 2017 Tredrea made seven trips

back to the Borneo highland territory in what is now

Sarawak, Malaysia. On one visit he was reunited with

three women who, as teenagers 70 years earlier, had

served as porters in his jungle campaign. He gave them

silver necklaces bearing the Z Special emblem. His gift

for the wider Kelabit community was 45 sets of replica

medals to honour those who had served under his

command and had continued fighting for two months

after it was all supposed to be over.

Jack Tredrea, tailor and commando, was born on

May 15, 1920. He died from kidney failure on July 17,

2018, aged 98

8 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

Jim Geedrick was an extraordinary

Australian soldier

When severely wounded by mortar fire during an

armoured assault in Vietnam in August 1968, Australian

Army adviser Jim Geedrick thought his soldiering days

were finished.

He had earlier been photographed at Gio Linh on

Anzac Day proudly displaying an Australian flag, in

what would become one of the most iconic images of

the war.

Now fighting for his life, the veteran of every

campaign since World War II found himself medically

evacuated home.

Six months later, however, he would return to Gio

Linh to complete his unfinished tour.

For Geedrick, getting wounded was just part of a

job he had been doing for three decades seeing

combat in all Australian military conflicts from World

War II through to Vietnam.

Last month an illness managed what scores of

Australia’s enemies could not: Geedrick died on July 22

in Rockhampton, at peace at the age of 94.

His death saw the passing of an extraordinary

soldier whose career is unlikely to be matched by

today’s soldiers.

Although described as indigenous, Geedrick was

born into a large family of Ceylonese descent in coastal

Yeppoon, central Queensland in 1924.

In March 1943, Geedrick enlisted in the AIF as an

infantryman, where his natural skills and personality

marked him out as a potential leader.

By the time Geedrick retired 30 years later he had

received every campaign and service medal then

available in the Australian Defence Force. For his

Vietnam service he also received US and Vietnamese

gallantry awards.

In Borneo at the end of WWII, lance corporal

Geedrick enlisted in the regular army and was sent to

the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in


There he met and married his first wife, Shizue, who

had survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb blast. She

later died from when in her 60s from cancer her family

believes was caused by being exposed to indirect

radiation from the atomic blast.

In 1951 the now sergeant Geedrick joined his old

battalion, 3RAR in Korea, fighting in the significant

battles at Kapyong and later Maryang San.

Geedrick served with 3RAR d u r i n g t h e

Malayan Emergency, then later during Confrontation

with Indonesia, returning to Borneo where he had been

during WWII.

On May 21, 1968 now Warrant Officer Class II

Geedrick joined the Australian Army Training Team


Former WOI Neil “Lofty” Eiby who served with

Geedrick in Malaya and during Confrontation

described him as “a great

soldier and a wonderful


“Because he was Jim

Geedrick he seemed to be

able to get away with

saying and doing things

other people might not

have,” Mr Eiby recalled.

“He was blunt but he was fair and above all he was


Geedrick’s final army posting was as RSM of the

Australian Army cadet battalion based in Rock hamp -

ton, a perfect segue for his later career as school

sergeant at Rockhampton Grammar School, where he

served from 1973 until 1997.

He remarried Jurin who was from Thailand and the

pair shared 25 years of marriage. He is survived by Jurin

and his three children from his first marriage, Gene, Kim

and Sheree.

A spokesman for Rockhampton Grammar said the

school had planned a dinner this weekend to honour

his 25-years service to the school.

“We knew he had been ill recently and weren’t sure

whether he could attend,” the spokesman said.

“He was a great mentor to generations of students

at our school.”


It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you of

the passing of AB Jack Mackay OAM of Z Special

Unit on Saturday, 11 August 2018.

Jack served as part of the build up and training

for Operation Jaywick, however he became ill and

was not able to join the Operation

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 9


As a former Army commando, media academic and

documentary maker, Bruce Horsfield was ideally

positioned to package the rich history of the Australian

Special Air Service Regiment.

Bruce’s early interest in the military saw him join the

Australian Cadet Corps before moving onto the

University of NSW Regiment and really getting serious

by qualifying as a member of I Commando Company

in Sydney.

Bruce quickly found his niche in the Green Berets,

completing the unit’s exacting SCUBA diving course,

submarine-kayak raids course and basic parachute

course at RAAF Williamtown – simultaneously

qualifying as trained teacher and going on to earn a

Bachelor of Arts from New England University, Master

of Arts from Sydney University and Doctor of

Philosophy from the University of Exeter, where he

completed a thesis on children’s television drama

researched at BBCTV in London.

If all that was not enough, he used any spare time

to hone his parachuting skills, quickly progressing the

basic military course to excursions into the

troposphere that saw him take out the Australian High

Altitude Free Fall Record of 25,000 feet, Southern

Hemisphere High Altitude Free Fall Record of 31,000

feet and make the NSW Parachute team for the 1963

Australian Free Fall Championships.

Some 340 jumps later - including two without

reserve parachute, night free falls, water jumps and

two main chute failures that caused him to have to

deploy his reserve - Bruce decided to switch to field

hockey, where he went on to represent Queensland in

the 1996 Australian Veterans’ Championships.

Bruce’s interest in television came with his move to

the University of Southern Queensland as Professor of

Media Studies, where he saw an opportunity to draw

on his military experience to shoot a documentary on

the most famous Australian incident in the Vietnam

War, the Battle of Long Tan. His 54-minute tribute to

that epic fight, Long Tan – the True Story, went on to

become a Vietnam War classic and “one of the five

best Australian documentaries” put to air by SBS


Long Tan has since been broadcast three times by

SBSTV, twice by ABCTV, eight times on Australian

History Channel, twice on Canadian History Channel

and was purchased by Australia Television for its Pan-

Pacific cable and re-broadcast networks. Distributed

by Film Australia and Siren Visual, the documentary

continues to sell in video stories and is available in

universities and libraries through Australia and abroad.

Bruce’s work on Long Tan and a social impact study

he carried out in the Pacific Islands for UNESCO

combined to see him awarded a University Medal from

the University of Southern Queensland.

Long Tan also led to Bruce accepting an invitation

to tackle a documentary on Australia’s Force of first

choice, the Perth-based Special Air Service Regiment,

which he spent 18 years piecing together with the

support and guidance of former Governor-General,

Major General Mike Jeffery, AC, AO (Mil), CVO, MC,

who served as a CO of SASR, Director of Special

Forces and Honorary Colonel of the SAS Regiment.

A 10-part series tracing the formation and

development of the SAS up to, for security reasons,

the early stages of the Afghanistan War and the

second Iraqi War, The Australian SAS – the Untold

History was officially launched at Government House

in Canberra by the Governor-General, General Sir

Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), in September 2016

before a large gathering of the nation’s leading military

personnel including MAJGEN Jeffery and the then

Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Allan

Grant "Angus" Houston, AK, AC, AFC.

SAS the Untold History relates the unit’s 50 year

history from a beginning marred by scepticism and

rejection to world-wide recognition as a highly

sophisticated reconnaissance, strike, recovery and

counter-terrorist force. The series include an extended

interview with the current US Secretary of Defense,

retired four star General James N Mattis, about the

important role SASR played in Afghanistan. Early

copies of the documentary have earned high praise

and approval from the Special Forces fraternity and

been acquired by major institutions across Australia

and internationally. An abridged version has also run

on The History Channel.

Bruce was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in

2018 by the Governor of New South Wales GEN David

Hurley for his service to military history, academic

achievement and sport parachuting. Supporting GEN

Hurley at the private investiture was MAJGEN Jeffery,

Bruce’s long-time mentor.

For his service to the Regiment he was also

admitted to the Australian Special Air Service

Association as an Associate Member.

Photo shows Bruce when filming Long Tan: the True Story in

Vietnam 1992.

10 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

I thought we should share this account of early High Altitude parachuting with you.

Most readers would not have known that this type of activity in Australia was virtually unknown until some

unsung heroes from an Army Reserve Special Forces Unit took the “big step” (literally).



Nostalgia from Bruce Horsfield

I read with interest and nostalgia an item in a Strike

Swiftly sometime ago, on Brian Murphy’s high altitude

low opening (HALO) free fall parachuting record back in

the 60’s. Brian’s achievement caught my imagination at

the time and I thought that your readers might like to

hear about some other early HALO endeavours by a

member of 1 Commando Company. In setting down my

own HALO experiences as I recall them, warts-and-all, I

often shudder at some of the vivid images that come

sharply into focus in my memory, stern reminders of the

problems and dangers we were up against and the

limitations of our approach. Certainly, we were really

establishing civilian HALO parachuting in Australia and

there were critical times when our ignorance caught up

with us. But we were lucky, we were young and some -

what brash, and we had some successes. And now, of

course, with the wisdom of hindsight and middle age,

we’d probably not take as many risks as we did in our

three attempts on HALO altitude records.

“High altitude” is an imprecise term but my memory

has it that “HALO” jumping is free falling from over

20,000 feet - that height above which the free fall

parachutist is required both to use the inboard aircraft

oxygen supply and to carry a separate portable oxygen

supply in free fall.

* * * * * * *

Early 1958, at age 17, I was the sole volunteer in D

Company, University of NSW Regiment - the scruffy,

university student conscript CMF unit that was the

Newcastle part of UNSWR. I had never heard of 1

Commando Company but after a chance meeting at

Holsworthy with the unassuming and very professional

Brian Murphy I was delighted in September ‘58 to pass

the medical for 1 Commando Company, transfer from D

Company and get my black beret. On the Taronga Zoo

bus to Georges Heights on the first Tuesday parade

night I met Corporal Mike Wells. Later Mike showed me

some photos of the free falling that he, Brian Murphy,

Barry Evers, Red Harrison and others were pioneering

(and, painfully, without canopy deployment sleeves!) at

Camden, south west of Sydney. This really looked like

absolute lunacy to me at the time, and I mentally

dismissed parachuting as unnecessarily dangerous and

definitely to be avoided. Worse, during my Green Beret

training I was dismayed to learn that the Para course was

the only compulsory course in the unit. I seriously

thought that I would quietly resign from 1 Commando

Company. But as many of us who have been through the

unit have no doubt found, with its effective training and

great esprit de corps, I gradually started to warm to the

idea of parachuting. I had always been air minded and

loved heights and would have enlisted as a pilot in the

Fleet Air Arm in 1957 had my father allowed me. The

older hands in 1 Cdo wearing their Para wings cer tainly

seemed no worse for the experience (read: if they can

get their wings then so can I!)

So, in April 1960 I grasped the nettle and did my first

frightening static line jump from 1200 feet with Sydney

Skydivers at Camden using a 28-foot British X-type ex-

Army static line parachute. The jump platform was a

lumbering but adequate De Havilland Dragon twinengine

biplane. By the time I did the Para course at

RAAF Williamtown in November 1960 I had already

completed eight static line jumps and two “jump and

pulls” i.e. with ripcord deployment from 2,500 feet.

Barry Clissold had also started jumping at about that

time and we were the only “experienced” jumpers on

our Para course, smugly watching 20 others fearful and

utterly miserable first jumpers on the first long, long

sortie until we started to catch the jitters from them

anyway. Gradually I got hooked on free falling and

bought my own ex-USAF main parachute and reserve,

so that a few of us could go up country on weekends

and make a plane load to get higher altitude jumps.

At Camden in 1960 a free fall of 5-10 seconds was

regarded as pretty sophisticated stuff. While we were

very keen, none of us demonstrated much skill in or

knowledge about free falling. The near blind led the

blind. True skill in free fall - and high altitude air space

so close to Sydney - were both very scarce. Sadly, we

were restricted at Camden to 3,500 feet above terrain

by Air Traffic Control at Mascot. Of course, skydivers can

never get enough altitude and non-bivouac week ends

would often see a few of us in Goulburn or Bathurst for

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 13

higher altitudes. By 1962 we were profi cient at

stabilising and turning in longer free falls of 7,000–8,000

feet above terrain. We knew little of HALO jumping (I

don’t think the term had been invented) and we were

still a bit timid about altitudes above 10,000- 12,000

feet. HALO jumps from the troposphere (alti tudes up to

37,000 feet) and the stratosphere (above 37,000 feet)

were remote, fantasies to ponder over a beer. No one

that we knew had experienced free falls from either of

those levels. Anyway, what would be the requirements

for oxygen? We understood that in-board oxygen was

required above 10,000 feet AMSL by the then

Department of Civil Aviation and there were stories that

a personal oxygen supply in free fall was also

compulsory above 20,000 feet AMSL. But where could

the small personal bottles and oxygen masks to carry in

free fall be obtained? Who had that sort of gear?

Moreover, suitable aircraft that could make it to higher

altitudes were expensive and hard to find. But all this

was more in the realm of pub talk, for at this time we

were mostly preoccupied with mastering stability and

linking up with each other in free fall, and trying to steer

our canopies to land dead centre on the DZ marker.

But because of our love of free falling the mystique

of high altitude parachuting – prolonging the free fall

part of the jump - persisted with many of us. Were there

real dangers in a long free fall, we wondered? Could you

lose control, and go into an accelerating flat spin that

would cause blackout, as we read had happened in the

USA? That is, my generation of jumpers in the early ‘60’s

thought mainly of the free fall part of the jump, and not

being skiers or climbers asked few if any questions

about the environment of the troposphere. Not having

ever been seriously exposed to the frigidity of high

altitude, we had no sense of the hazards of hypo -

thermia, exposure, sub-zero temperatures, frost bite,

frozen altimeters, and the decline in mental per -

formance, judgement and gross and fine motor skills

resulting from hypoxia. (We didn’t of course know that

we would soon get first hand experience of these things

the hard way!) To us HALO was all just a fantasy fuelled

by a frustrating mixture of timidity, ignorance, curiosity

and a desire for adventure. Obviously, by this stage I’d

come a long way since my dread of the basic Para

course. One detail we weren’t worried about though

was the chance of missing the drop zone on a HALO

sortie. Just getting to the ground in one piece would do

nicely. Anyway, the spotting on our sorties was often

lousy in the early 60’s and we all knew what it was like to

lug our gear a long way back to the strip after a poor


But skydivers elsewhere, free of the altitude

restrictions of Camden, pushed ahead. Suddenly,

drama tically, higher leaps started happening around us.

Laurie Trotter, an early ‘civvie’ skydiver, set an Australian

altitude record with a 60 second delay from 12,000 feet.

At Camden our parochial little group of skydivers were

grudgingly impressed. Then, to our surprise and delight,

Brian Murphy made a successful attempt on Trotter’s

Australian high altitude free fall record using a Cessna

210. Brian’s free fall from 17,000 feet - astonishing at the

time - broke not only Trotter’s 12,000 feet Australian

record but also our own psychological and physical

resistance to the HALO environment above 12,000 feet.

Then a NZ skydiving team using a supercharged Aero

Commander 680F attained a remarkable 27,000 feet - a

wondrous, absolutely mind-blowing excursion into the

upper troposphere even by today’s standards. And, for

what it was worth, it was a Southern Hemisphere high

altitude free fall record. They exited at 27,000 feet and

pulled ripcords at 2,000 feet. To most of us at Camden

that sort of operation and altitude seemed out of our

league. I remember wondering at the time just how such

a jump could be possible.

However, times and people change and in 1965 I

decided to give it a go. We - Robin Godwin, a civvie

mate, and I - would attack the Kiwi’s Southern Hemi -

sphere HALO record of 27,000 feet. Brian Murphy

unselfishly lent us each a portable oxygen cylinder (De

Havilland Vampire jet fighter ejection seat cylinders,

each with a 7 minute constant flow supply), which was

required for jumping above 20,000 feet AMSL by the

Australian Parachute Federation. Brian had acquired

these little bottles for his own HALO record attempts

(deferred indefinitely following a knee injury while

parachuting). We were lucky to get cost - free an Aero

Commander 680F, in a sponsorship deal with the then

Avis Rent-a-Plane. The Avis pilot, Captain Peter Ahrens,

assured us that the 680F could beat the Kiwi’s 27,000

feet. At this stage I had done 147 jumps, mostly free

falls, the highest being a 45 second delayed opening

from 9,500 feet without oxygen equipment.

Our plan was to free fall from the Aero Commander’s

absolute ceiling – we had no idea what this would be -

to 2000 feet, open parachutes, and land in Lake

Illawarra where boats of the Kanahooka Motor Boat

Club would retrieve us. Along with us on the sortie as

“drifter” (a term used to refer to a device for gauging

the wind strength and direction after take off but also to

justify a free jump) was my younger brother - another

Robin, aged 18 - who was doing his 45th jump. (Soon

after, in January 1966 during the Vietnam War, Robin

“celebrated” being conscripted by doing 40 jumps in

one day onto Aero Pelican strip, Newcastle. Rob has

very good legs!) As our drifter, Robin was to free-fall

from about 16,000 feet to 2000 feet and land in the lake,

exiting the aircraft as it climbed to whatever altitude the

pilot could attain. The Aero Commander had its own inboard

passenger oxygen console for our use on the

climb and we would carry the little 7-minute ejection

seat oxygen cylinders tied to our reserve chute bungies.

These would be connected to our $5 Army Disposal

Store WWII “12 O’clock High” oxygen masks – oldish,

but in mint condition, like the candy striped USAF

military surplus parachutes that we used. We would

change over from the aircraft oxygen console to our

portable cylinders on the dropping run, just prior to exit.

The air space clearance to all altitudes from Air Traffic

Control Mascot was for Sunday 14 February 1965 from

first light to 0700 hours. Piece of cake!

14 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

We spent an uncomfortable night before the drop on

the floor at the Albion Park Aero Club. Next morning,

mindful of Brian Murphy’s report of the deep cold he

had experienced on his own record jump, we ate a

hearty meal of steak and eggs thinking it would keep

our bodies warm on the sortie. It was a meal we were

shortly to regret having eaten. Then, to make it easier to

get from our aircraft seats to the rear doorway for exit,

we reversed the Aero Commander’s seats on their floor

mountings so that all of us, except the pilot, Captain

Peter Ahrens, faced the rear door, which we removed for

our exit under the port wing. This also meant that all of

us - pilot included - had our backs to the 680F’s oxygen

console, into which we were all plugged. Several days

previously we had sought to familiarise ourselves with

the aircraft oxygen console and low-pressure con -

necting lines and fittings but unfortunately - and

ominously - we couldn’t organise it with Avis staff. So, as

we geared up next to the aircraft for our Southern

Hemisphere HALO Record bid, we were full of steak and

eggs, rash optimism and the confidence of youth. Not

only were we totally unfamiliar with the vital oxygen

system on the Aero Commander but we had also

ingeniously managed to arrange the seats so that all

four of us, pilot included, were sitting with our backs to

the all - important oxygen console. Moreover, neither of

us had used Brian’s Vampire ejection seat bottles before,

even in a rehearsal, since once the lanyard was yanked

the flow could not be turned off, requiring a timeconsuming

service by Hawker de Havilland at Banks -

town. Youthful impatience resisted such extravagant

waste of time!

However, the morning was clear and calm and so we

geared up in parachutes, life jackets, oxygen cylinders,

balaclavas, gloves and ski masks and heaved ourselves

on board the Aero Commander. The aircraft’s take-off

gave us our first discomforting surprise, for to us the

speed and rate of climb of the supercharged Aero Com -

mander were simply incredible, and to me as jump -

master/dispatcher quite disorienting. Accustomed to

under powered Austers, the old De Havilland Dragon

and the odd struggling Cessna, where there was ample

time in the slow climb to altitude to think about the

jump ahead, we were riding in a rocket by comparison.

This resulted in less time to adjust mentally to the new

environment of high altitude – a feeling of being

“rushed” and of not being in complete control of our


As we climbed steeply over Lake Illawarra, what had

begun as clear sunny sky suddenly started to clag right

in underneath us. A sea drift of thick, opaque cloud

began rapidly to obscure the ground and lake. In no

time we were at 18,000 feet and I dispatched brother

Robin, who enjoyed a very long free fall to the lake

through the last, fast-disappearing small hole remaining

in the cloud cover. Pulling at 2,000 feet, he later

reported a very pleasant and satisfying free fall. As the

680F shot on up into the troposphere the complete

cloud cover settled in well below us - but how far below,

we could not tell merely by looking down at it. We had

no DZ controller with ground to air radio and even if

we’d had ground control there was little they could have

done to guide an aircraft that they could barely hear and

couldn’t see. In fact, by 19,000 feet we had absolutely

no specific idea of where we were, and I couldn’t do my

usual visual spotting for the exit point because there

were no landmarks visible. A moody dawn sky above the

cloud added to the sense of strangeness and uneasiness

of it all and we had no plan of action for finding a lost

DZ. Navigation for the dropping run and exit point

therefore devolved entirely on the radio navigation skills

of our pilot, Peter Ahrens, who seemed to have caught

the spirit of our record attempt. No one, including the

pilot, thought of calling it off because of the total cloud

cover. It had taken much organisation, time and effort to

get this far, and we were determined not to abort the

sortie if we could avoid it.

Then as we approached 25,000 feet I started to doze

off to sleep, rationalising to myself that the previous few

days jump preparations and the rough night’s sleep had

been a little fatiguing and that a cat nap before the

dropping run would surely do me the world of good. Of

course, as a new chum I had no idea that I was drifting

into the cosy seductiveness and fatuous serenity of

hypoxia. This disaster struck very quietly. Unnoticed by

us, behind our backs all three oxygen lines - pilot’s

included - had simply dropped out of the oxygen

console to the floor under their own meagre weight

because of slack bayonet fittings. We did not know we

were breathing only the thin inadequate atmosphere.

So, there we were, hurtling upwards, dead to the world

in a deep hypoxic slumber. In his sleep Robin vomited

up his steak and eggs into his oxygen mask and all over

his reserve ‘chute, clothing, his seat and the carpeted

aircraft floor.

Suddenly I woke up, nauseous and very groggy.

Where the hell was I? What was going on? As I struggled

to gain some awareness I realised that the aircraft was in

a steep dive. Fortunately for us all, Peter Ahrens, an

experienced pilot, had detected early the symptoms of

hypoxia in himself and was descending as quickly as he

could to a safe altitude. I was light-headed, sick and

weary, but felt even worse when I realised that our

precious record attempt was RS. But then Robin woke

up and I thought fast. (The inflated arrogance, mindless

urgency and insatiable appetite of youth!) I reassured

the pilot confidently that we were ok to jump, but at first

Peter didn’t want to know. Although I felt dreadful, I was

insistent, making me speak briskly and moving pur -

posefully to show him how wonderfully recovered and

normal I really was. It was a shameless con. I shudder to

think of how we must have looked and sounded. But

Peter, sizing us up, finally agreed to give it another go,

and called up Air Traffic Control Mascot for an extension

of time. I refitted our oxygen leads and held them in

their sockets, and the pilot pulled the aircraft’s nose

back up. We managed to get to 25,200 feet before our

extra time ran out. Peter then signalled us to jump. We

changed over from the aircraft bottle to our 7-minute

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 15

supply portable bottles and crawled into the open


Poking my head through the doorway I looked down

on a vast white floor of thick cloud thousands of feet

below us. Where, under all that cloud, was our Lake

Illawarra drop zone? Far to what was probably the west

of us a mountain peak nosing up through the cloud may

possibly have been near Burragorang, but as far as my

addled judgement was concerned it could have been

any feature at all. Peter was working overtime cranking

the RDF handle above his head trying to fix our position

within a triangle formed by three terrestrial nondirectional

radio navigation beacons (NDB’s). He kept

nodding vigorously to us that we could jump, but

looking down on to the complete cloud cover I

hesitated in the doorway. I wondered sluggishly if fixing

one’s position by triangulating NDB’s was accurate

enough for us, as only one NDB could be lined up at a

time, and with the great speed of the Aero Commander

it seemed that a large margin of error was likely. It didn’t

occur to either of us or to the pilot to abort the sortie

but because there is only a thin strip of land between

Lake Illawarra and the ocean I was afraid that we might

even be out over the Tasman Sea. If we jumped perhaps

no one would see us and we might be lost out to sea.

Peter continued to put the Aero Commander into a fast,

steeply banking orbit - clearly, he thought that we were

over the drop zone. I wasn’t as confident as he – I had

been on sorties where the pilot had insisted on doing

the spotting and it was always very inaccurate. It also

crossed my still sluggish mind that we didn’t know

whether the base of the cloud cover was right down to

ground level or was at our parachute opening height of

2,000 feet, or was higher, or lower. But finding the DZ

was our absolute priority and accuracy now depended

entirely on the pilot’s navigational skills. As we banked in

a continuing 360-degree circle I kept gesticulating to

him, “Where are we? Can we go?” But with our seven

minute portable bottles starting to run low, pinpoint

accuracy became an academic question and despite

feeling very vulnerable and disoriented, our dwindling

oxygen supply forced the decision. I dived through the

terrific slipstream of the port engine into the vast void of

space and sky, Robin Godwin following immediately.

As I stabilised in free fall, the sun peeked over the

horizon of the cloud floor far below and my amber

tinted ski goggles treated me to an enthralling,

spectacular display of colour as the eastern sky and the

entire terrain of cloud turned rich pink, orange and

crimson. Instinctively I did a 90-degree turn and faced

the rising sun. (At this stage I had been studying the

transcendental nature poetry of the Lake Poets such as

Wordsworth and Coleridge for my BA degree and, high

on a blend of their pantheistic Naturfilosofie and the

drunkenness of hypoxia, I found this solitary splendour

of crimson cloud at high altitude total, spiritual and

calming. In a crazy, irrational way my orientation to earth

and sky inverted, as it were, so that the sky above me

seemed solid and the ground below distant, ephemeral

and unimportant. The Lake Poets would have

approved!) But this transcendental “high” was suddenly

interrupted, for as I reached terminal velocity in free fall

my 12 O’clock High oxygen mask was blasted off my

face and I was forced reluctantly out of my reverie and

back to my immediate problems. Holding my oxygen

mask firmly on my face with one hand while struggling

to maintain free fall stability with the other, I started to

wonder how much height I had left, since, still under the

influence of the solar psychedelics and still not mentally

100%, I hadn’t noticed whether my 10,000 feet altimeter

had wound past zero once or twice. So with the soft

surface of the cloud cover below now starting to rush at

me, I grappled with my frenzied oxygen mask and with

the problem of whether I was at 18,000 feet or 8,000

feet. Dawn suddenly turned to dusk as I plunged into

the grey-white gloom of the cloud mass, but my mental

clock told me that my altimeter needle had in fact

wound past zero twice. I took a punt and pulled at what

I hoped was 2,500 feet, and not 12,500 feet, still in the

cloud. As I floated down out of the cloud base I saw the

ground and could see that I was at 1,800 feet - not

above Lake Illawarra or the Tasman Sea, but above the

land strip between the lake and the Tasman. Robin

Godwin landed nearby. That was good enough. “A big

thanks to our able pilot, Peter Ahrens”. Spotting with

NDB’s is a fine thing, and to be highly recommended!

Who wanted water landing anyway?

On the ground I still felt sick from the hypoxia and a

bit dazed and weary from the whole experience, but I

was glad to be in one piece. It turned out that Robin

Godwin had waited until clearing the cloud before

pulling his ripcord and I must ask him one day how he

knew that the cloud base wasn’t at ground level.

Perhaps he was keeping close tabs on his altimeter as he

fell. Afterwards we enjoyed a day or two of media hype,

but we had had a taste of HALO and promptly started

planning to better both our Australian record of 25,000

feet and the Southern Hemisphere Record of 27,000

feet of the New Zealand team. We were feeling quite

pleased with ourselves, for our sortie could easily have

been a disastrous and embarrassing failure (purists

would say that it was anyway!). True, if we hadn’t

blacked out we could have possibly made 30,000 feet or

better in the time available. But we had gained some

invaluable experience with oxygen and with operational

planning. We hadn’t been cold at all at 25,000 feet or at

any time on the flight, even with the door removed.

Perhaps we were too hypoxic to notice, but I don’t think

so. I thought at the time that perhaps we stayed warm

because the aircraft climbed so quickly that we didn’t

have time to lose much body heat. But we were soon to

discover the hard way that the time of year affects

temperatures “upstairs” a great deal.

Now, how were we going to beat the Kiwi’s 27,000

feet record? Finding a suitable jump aircraft was no easy

matter. The Avis Aero Commander was no longer

available to us as Avis went out of the rent-a-plane

business soon after (but not because of!) our jump. After

a very long and frustrating search we managed to find

another sponsor when WD and HO Wills agreed to pay

16 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

for the Aero Commander 680F of King Ranch Australia.

The pilot, John Laffin, assured us that his 680F had an

absolute ceiling of over 30,000 feet. So, on 12

September 1965 the two Robins and I flew up to Cowra

for the record attempt - but without the steak and eggs

breakfast this time. To avoid the pleasures of hypoxia we

did good aircraft oxygen and equipment checks before

taking off. At 22,000 feet, I despatched brother Rob

(with 53 jumps still regarded as too inexperienced for

the higher altitude “men’s” stuff) and we continued to

climb towards the 680F’s maximum ceiling.

But before long the plummeting temperature in the

aircraft became excruciating. The cold was absolutely

appalling. The frigid blast from the port propeller was

rammed in through the open doorway, icing into opacity

our goggles and altimeters, reducing us to sluggish -

ness, numbing our hands and fingers and giving our

clothing, faces and parachute rigs a heavy coating of

frost. I had never experienced anything like this in my

entire life. Pilot John was obviously suffering greatly too

and a more wretched trio I couldn’t imagine. Hypo -

thermia was rapidly debilitating us. However, despite

the terrible wind chill factor and deep cold, we never -

theless continued the climb. After all, that’s why we were


But it wasn’t to be. At 27,000 feet - equal to the

height of the New Zealand altitude record - the oil in the

port engine thickened from the cold and the pilot had to

feather its three bladed propellers. I can’t recall it clearly

but my logbook states that for some reason my mate

Robin blacked out at about this stage and that he didn’t

regain consciousness until a lower altitude was reached.

On only one engine the Aero Commander dropped

rapidly and by the time we changed over from aircraft

oxygen to our portable cylinders and exited we were

down to 18,000 feet - ironically, an exit height lower

than brother Robin’s 22,000 feet only a short while


I shall never forget the frigid misery of the free fall

that followed. Already hypothermic, I found the cold in

free fall unbearable, piercing my thick layers of clothing,

gloves, balaclava and helmet. My skull chilled and I felt

that my brain was freezing - I might as well have been

free falling stark naked. To try to avoid the awful cold I

rolled onto my back into the “dead horse” position, so

that the main parachute pack might provide a shield

from the painfully cold blast of free fall. But to no avail.

I was chilled to the marrow. I perhaps should have

opened my parachute high to end the pain, but not

knowing the wind strengths and directions at all

altitudes and not knowing where I might drift off to, it

really wasn’t an option. Mercifully the opening height of

2,000 feet finally arrived, and, my fingers being in -

operable, I pulled the ripcord with my thumb.

What a forgettable sortie! With a glum sense of

anticlimax, we packed up and flew back to Sydney. We

had not beaten the Kiwis’ Southern Hemisphere or even

our own Lake Illawarra Australian record. To be fair, we

had had no warning during the Lake Illawarra record

attempt of the perils and difficulties of extreme cold at

high altitude, and so had not really given it any serious

thought on this second attempt.

But we weren’t yet ready to call it a day, and despite

the awful obstacle of hypothermia we still wanted to

beat the Kiwis - if possible, without the problems of

oxygen and cold, which had detracted from our earlier

efforts at Lake Illawarra and Cowra. WD and HO Wills

were a bit put off by our Cowra failure but sportingly

rallied to meet the costs of a Fokker F27 Mark 1

Friendship turbo prop airliner from the then East West

Airlines. An airliner, no less! Yes, thanks! We invited

Kenny Bath, an instructor at Sydney Skydivers, to join us

for this third attempt on the Southern Hemisphere High

Altitude Record. We told Ken about our loss of 10,000

feet of hard earned altitude at Cowra because of the

slow changeover from aircraft to personal oxygen. He

turned up with male and female couplings for each of

us, which, he said, would enable us to do a quicker

switch over from the aircraft oxygen, supply to our little

personal bottles so that any loss of precious oxygen or

altitude would be negligible. I was so reassured by this

cunning display of engineering initiative that I didn’t

even try out the couplings, but left Kenny to fit a pair to

each of our personal cylinder oxygen lines. It all seemed

so simple.

East West Airlines shrewdly moved our third record

attempt to Grafton in northern NSW for two reasons: a)

it was a sea level drop zone, providing “free” altitude

compared with higher inland drop zones such as Cowra,

and b) there was turbine fuel for refuelling. The Fokker’s

absolute ceiling would be greater with a partial fuel

load. Our inboard aircraft oxygen consisted initially of

the pressurised interior of the Fokker, then medical

oxygen cylinders from CIG strapped to the seat next to

each of us for when the aircraft depressurised above

20,000 feet. The spotting at high altitude was the job of

the pilot, Captain Jim Swan, who would fly on a heading

at whatever altitude he could attain straight down the

Grafton runway and signal us when to jump. Knowing

that the oxygen changeover on the dropping run was

more important than where we would land I had no

problem with this plan. (After the jump, we found

ourselves only a forgivable kilometre from the strip.) On

the dropping run we would therefore have ample time

for an unhurried changeover from aircraft to personal

oxygen systems. On the climb, although depressurised,

we would keep the Fokker’s sliding rear passenger door

closed so that the cabin heaters could warm up the

interior. This proved to be very successful in keeping us

warm before and thus during the free fall. However, after

the deep cold of the Cowra jump, I had readily accepted

Brian Murphy’s kind offer of his padded USAF aircrew

quilted nylon inner suit for the jump (where did he get

that, I wondered). Again, because of the previous effect

of deep cold on my fingers, I swapped my leather

gloves for large leather motorcycle gauntlets, which

were mitten-like, without individual fingers – my thumb

would have to pull the ripcord. Ken Bath and Robin

Godwin had white cotton overalls on and warm clothing

and balaclavas. In the quilted USAF suit I looked and felt

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 17

like something from outer space, especially as it was too

big for me. I had no opportunity to try the suit out in free

fall before the big day – if I’d tried it out in free fall I

wouldn’t have worn it on the record bid. In view of our

oxygen problems on the previous HALO sorties the

question of whether we should fit barostats (automatic

parachute opening devices - “AOD’s”) to our reserve

‘chutes came up, but most AOD’s were poorly regarded

at the time as on several trials they had pulled the

ripcord D Ring of the reserve chute after the parachutist

had landed! So we didn’t take the idea of AOD’s

seriously for HALO jumping.

To add to the sense of occasion, I invited 30

skydivers at ten dollars a head to come along with us for

a rare cheap leap from 10,000 feet from a Fokker

Friendship, the money to go the Royal North Shore

Hospital Paraplegic Unit. (There was some grumbling

from the fraternity about both the money and my

restricting their altitude to only 10,000 feet, but I felt

that if we went higher for the 30 fun jumpers, there

wouldn’t be enough time to fully oxygenate the three of

us between their exit altitude of 10,000 feet and our

proposed exit altitude at whatever the aeroplane could

attain. It was simply a matter of priorities.) Two weeks

before the jump I asked my older brother David, who

had served as an IO in UNSWR, to fly with East West

Airlines to a recce of the Grafton drop zone on our

behalf and bring back a good field sketch of the

environs – terrain, trees, natural and built hazards etc.

What could go wrong when everything was so well


So, on a calm and sunny 24th of October 1965, we

all flew from Sydney to Grafton, geared up and took off.

I insisted on personally despatching each of the three

sticks of ten skydivers on three runs at 11,000 feet. The

Fokker’s sliding rear door and the handy airhostess’

phone to the pilot made my jumpmaster’s job a dream.

No NDB’s needed here! I was in form on the day and all

three sticks landed very near the white cross on the

airfield. I enjoyed that very much (“First stick, stand up!”

sort of thing). Then I closed the door, returned to my

seat, went on to the CIG oxygen and the aircraft repressurised.

After we passed through 20,000 feet we

depressurised and awaited the climb to the Fokker’s

absolute ceiling and the pilot’s signal - relayed to us by

Ron Walesby, the Manager of East West Airlines, which

we were soon to commence the dropping run. After the

hypothermia of Cowra the Fokker was cosy and warm,

and the big medical oxygen cylinders with their clearly

calibrated flow meters roped to the seats next to us

worked well. At 31,000 feet, with the Fokker’s rate of

climb right down, Ron signalled to us that we were on

the dropping run - time for us to change over to our little

cylinders, get quickly down to the back door, slide it

open, and jump. Nothing to it. However, my motorcycle

gauntlets did not permit a quick, nimble-fingered

oxygen changeover using Kenny Bath’s male and female

fittings. So, to conserve my seven-minute personal

supply I removed my gauntlets, activated my portable

bang-seat bottle, and disconnected my 12 O’clock High

mask from aircraft supply and plugged into the lowpressure

line from Murphy’s portable bottle. As the male

fitting snapped home, I felt an unexpected whoosh of

air in my oxygen mask. But I could not pause to

investigate this oddity, because Ron was motioning to

us to be on our way to the rear doorway. I put on my

gauntlets, stood up, plodded down the aisle of the

Fokker to the back door and pulled it open. As I did so,

I heard a loud sharp bang, like a double bunger,

followed by another sharp bang. Puzzled, I waited at the

open doorway, but neither Ken nor Robin joined me.

Then Kenny came down the aircraft to the doorway with

the shredded end of his portable bottle’s low-pressure

line in his mouth. This was probably not what one hopes

to see on a well-organised HALO jump. But, recognising

there was nothing that could be done; I held my oxygen

mask firmly to my face and stepped out of the door into

space, Kenny following. Robin Godwin did not join us at

the doorway before we jumped.

We worked out later what had gone wrong. We

hadn’t known that the male and female fittings Kenny

had obtained for us had a one-way non-return valve that

wouldn’t open until the fitting was actually snapped

home. Kenny had made no mention of the one-way

valves – maybe he did not know about them either. The

portable bottles, once activated, had simply built up

pressure behind the one-way valve until the lines

exploded. With the whoosh into my mask I had escaped

by only a few seconds a similar explosion, because, of

the three of us, I was the only one who had happened

to remove his gloves to affect a quick oxygen

changeover. Kenny was lucky in that his line exploded

near his mask and was still long enough to simply put in

his mouth. Robin Godwin was not so fortunate: his line

exploded near his personal bottle lashed to his reserve

parachute and so it wasn’t long enough to reach his

mouth unless he wanted to unhook his reserve ‘chute

and free fall with it under his arm! At 31,000 feet, with

the aircraft depressurised and his free fall personal

oxygen supply unusable, Robin looked down the full

length of the Fokker to see Kenny and myself departing

through the open doorway. Deciding that it was too

good a picnic to miss, Robin got up, oxygen or no

oxygen, charged down the aircraft and out into space.

He reported no ill effects or hypoxia from this, and we

thought it must be good value to be well oxygenated at

high altitude if you can manage it.

My own free fall of 29,000 feet was a mess. The 12

O’clock High mask was again ripped away from my face

by the blast of the free fall. But my quilted nylon jump

suit, while warm enough, had such a low coefficient of

friction with the air that I found it virtually impossible to

stabilise in free fall. I skidded and skated all over the sky

like a beginner on a skating rink. Worse, the suit was far

too big for me, and unimpeded by the three-point

parachute harness the inner suit billowed, concealing

my ripcord handle, which totally disappeared into the

billowing folds of the inner suit. I spent almost the entire

18 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

free fall alternatively looking for the bloody ripcord,

wrestling the oxygen mask back onto my face and

carefully counting the needle of my 10,000 feet

altimeter three times past zero. Interestingly, although it

was still only spring and the pilot recorded an outside air

temperature of minus 67 degrees Fahrenheit at our exit

height of 31,000 feet, I had no sensation of cold

whatsoever on this sortie and neither did the others.

Being warm in the Fokker on the climb had presumably

done the trick. I was also interested to learn from a

friend who was a Professor of Physics at UNSW that

terminal velocity in free fall from that altitude in the

thinner air was probably about 340kph (or, in my

slippery nylon tent, probably 400kph!), and that the

duration of the fall was over two minutes.

So, third time lucky. We had the title. The media

came to the party, WD and HO Wills threw us a big

reception and presented us each with a nice trophy,

suitably inscribed, and all the cigarettes we could

smoke! Our jump had finally beaten the New Zealanders

and our record stood for something like six or seven

years at least, when I think a Victorian team achieved

about 32,000 feet using a Beechcraft King Air. We were

later somewhat galled to learn that at Grafton our pilot

could have possibly got the Fokker even higher. But as

its rate of climb on the dropping run was only 40 feet

per minute (very low indeed) it was not clear what extra

altitude could really have been achieved on that sortie,

short of removing all the seats and stripping the aircraft

of everything removable. Had I known in advance,

though, I would have taken my spanner with me and

assisted in stripping the Fokker.

There was a worthy outcome to our oxygen

problems: later the Australian Parachute Federation

arranged for its members to accompany QANTAS

trainee pilots in the high altitude simulator decom -

pression tank at RAAF Richmond, which I did. Although

it came after the event, the RAAF tank was a valuable

experience of medically controlled hypoxia that I could

heartily recommend to my fellow skydivers. The main

message about hypoxia was that you could feel normal

and confident but at the same time have seriously

impaired judgement and cognition.

Although I subsequently tried hard to break our

altitude record with a night free fall from 38,000 - 40,000

feet, we couldn’t find an affordable, adequate aeroplane

and Grafton was in fact the last of our HALO jumps. We

had learnt a lot about oxygen and its portability, about

combating extreme cold, about the psychology of

performing arduous physical and mental tasks, and - the

hard way - about sound planning and rehearsal,

especially with new equipment. The dollar cost of the

aircraft is probably still a major factor – if you can afford

the right aeroplane then you will be spared the

problems of hypothermia and hypoxia.

Now, I wonder what a 747 costs per hour…?

For the record this is impossible due to the door

opening mechanism on a Boeing 747. Editor

(Cpl) Bruce Horsfield

1 Commando Coy, 1958-1962

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 19

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Address: 5/23 Buckland Street

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20 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

Regimental Executive Officer Major Lee Mountford,

President of the Commando Association Barry Grant,

members of the Association, distinguished guests,

fellow Commandos and Commando supporters, ladies

and gentlemen, girls and boys, good morning and

thank you for the invitation to address your service this


I have chosen as my theme for today – Anzac Day –

a day for reflection. What I would like to do in my

address is to briefly describe some of the issues that I,

as a professional soldier of 35 years and a former

Commando, think we as Australians should reflect on,

on Anzac Day 2018.

Firstly it is important that we reflect on the original

Anzacs, those men who 103 years ago this morning, as

part of the 1st Anzac Corps made their gallant landing

at Anzac Cove. Much has been written about the

conduct of the campaign and the legends and myths

that have arisen from it, but to me as a former soldier

they set a standard for bravery, dedication and sacrifice

for following generations of Australian service per son -

nel to aspire to, and if possible emulate.

On Anzac Day we should reflect on the fact that the

landing at Gallipoli was the coming of age of a young

country. In 1915 the young nation Australia was only 14

years old as a federation and for the first time, rather

than representing one of six separate colonies, an

Australian force was formed and had gone to war,

albeit supporting mother England. For a lot of these

young Australians it certainly was also a coming of age

as for most it was their first time overseas and they left

Australia with a strong spirit of adventure and very little

understanding of the challenges of fighting a war. Their

learning curve was going to be very steep but they

certainly did us proud.

On Anzac Day we should also reflect that over our

history our nation has been involved in many conflicts

since that first landing at Gallipoli and in all of them

Australian men and women have made the supreme

sacrifice – in World Wars One and Two, the Korean

War, the Malayan Emergency, confrontation with

Indonesia, Vietnam, the war I served in, and then in so

called peacekeeping operations in the Middle East, in

Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda, Bougainville, East Timor,

the Solomon Islands and then conflict operations in

Iraq and Afghanistan, the war that a lot of you served

in. We must on Anzac Day remember that there are



some 102,000 Australians who as a result of war and

conflict will never come home.

As we are gathered here today at the Commando

Memorial it is important that we, who are part of

Australia’s modern day Commandos, reflect on the

original Australian Commandos, who during the

Second World War bravely volunteered to be part of a

new group of independent companies formed to con -

duct special Commando type operations. For being

part of a special group they were given a special unit

badge, a double diamond that today forms the

backing for our own unit insignia. As with all of our

Second World War soldiers their ranks are thinning but

we must remember how bravely our first Commandos

fought, normally against considerably stronger forces,

in PNG and its islands, on East Timor where they are

still fondly remembered for their resistance to the

Japanese occupying force, and on Borneo towards the

end of that War. They obviously left a lasting impres -

sion with the powers that be because, in 1955 some 10

years after the end of World War 2 the Army was being

reorganised and the Australian Government decided

we needed some Commandos as part of the new order

of battle. 1st and 2nd Commando Companies were

formed and the Commando component of our Army

has been steadily growing in numbers ever since.

Those of us who are or have been members of

Special Operations Command should reflect of the fact

that 75 years ago this coming October, Australia

launched its first offensive special operations raid,

Operation Jaywick, when a group of specially selected

and highly trained Defence Force members (not

designated Commandos in those days) launched an

attack on the Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbour.

Travelling in the mother ship the Krait and then fol -

boats, the kleppers predecessor, the team were able to

sink 7 major Japanese ships using limpet mines. An

amazing feat. Unfortunately the follow-on operation,

Operation Rimau, was not so successful, but highly

trained Special Forces had shown the Australian

powers that be what they could achieve.

On Anzac Day 2018 we must also reflect that even

without a deployment to a war, our country has nearly

1,700 of its Defence Force personnel from all three

services deployed overseas helping to make our world

and particularly our region a more secure place; in the

Middle East, South Sudan, Egypt, Israel/Lebanon,

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 21

South West Pacific, South China Sea, Southern Indian

Ocean, Iraq, Afghanistan, and on border protection.

On this day we should remember the commitment that

all these personnel are making to world peace, and

pray for their safe return when their tours are com -


For those of us who are, or like me, have been

soldiers, we should reflect that 100 years ago next

month Australia’s finest soldier, Lt Gen John Monash

was given command of the Australian Corps, the first

Australian to hold that appointment. From that position

he was able to use his leadership qualities and superior

planning ability to formulate plans for the Battles of

Hamel in July 1918 and Amiens in August that year

which had such an effect on the German Army that by

November they had had enough and an armistice was

signed ending the War. I believe that General Monash

has not been given sufficient recognition by our

country for all he achieved and I do believe that a post -

humous promotion to Field Marshal, as has been

recently proposed, could balance the books, at least a


Ladies and gentlemen, what I have aimed to do this

morning is to give you some food for thought on what

we should all reflect on, on Anzac Day 2018, principally,

however, on our special day we must remember the

102,000 australians who will never come home. We,

the living, owe them a great debt and on Anzac Day we

must keep them foremost in our thoughts.

Lest we forget.

Thank you for your attention.

BRIG Philip McNamara CSC ESM OAM

Hon Colonel 2nd Commando Regt


A Miranda skydiving instructor, who wrapped

himself around a boy to shield him from the full impact

as they plunged to the ground during a freak accident

has been honoured for his bravery.

Antonio (Tony) Rokov 44, a former member of the

2nd Commando Regiment at Holsworthy, died in the

tandem diving accident in November 2015, but 14-

year-old Elijah Arranz survived.

Elijah with severe traumatic brain injury but, with

tremendous determination, has learnt to walk and eat

again, is in year 11 at a Canberra college and his goal

is to run the Boston Marathon one day. Mr. Rokov was

posthumously awarded the Star of Courage, the

second highest level of the Australian Bravery Awards,

announced recently.

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove approved the


"On 21 November 2015, the late Mr. Antonio

Rokov shielded a young person during a skydiving

accident near Goulburn in NSW", the award citation


"Mr. Rokov, an experienced skydiving instructor, has

meticulously prepared his equipment prior to

undertaking a tandem skydive near Goulburn Airport.

The weather was calm with wind speeds of

approximately 11 km/h coming from the South.

"Mr. Rokov then briefed a 14-year-old boy who

would be undertaking the tandem skydive with him

and provided reassurance to the boy's anxious family in

the process.

"After a normal takeoff and jump from the plane,

the pair descended.

"When they were approximately 20 meters from the

ground, a freak gust of wind caused their parachute to

collapse and violently fold in half.

Pic courtesy ABC News

"Mr. Rokov and the boy quickly began to plummet

during which time the boy was flipped horizontally.

"As they approached the ground, Mr. Rokov twisted

his body under the boy and took the full force of the


"First Aid was administered straight away to both

Mr. Rokov and the boy until emergency services arrived

on the scene."

"Sadly, Mr. Rokov died as a result of his injuries he

sustained. The boy, though, survived the fall."

"By his actions, Mr. Rokov displayed conspicuous


Mr. Rokov's widow Samantha Rokov told ABC News

"we would rather have our husband, father, son back,

but to be remembered, that means a lot to us".

"Every single day we're proud of him, that will never


The couple met when they were teenagers and

have 3 children.

Article courtesy St. George and Sutherland Shire

Leader and Murray Trembath.

22 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

Commandos who turned up for the last Reserve Forces Day Parade

Celebrating its 40 th year, Disabled

Wintersport Australia (DWA) is thrilled and

very proud to announce Joany Badenhorst as

its National Ambassador!!

Long time DWA member and volunteer,

Joany is Co-Captain of the 2018 Australian

Winter Paralympic Team.

Currently ranked number one in the

World in Boarder-cross LL-2 Joany was

Australia’s only female Snowboarder at the

2018 Winter Paralympics!

On accepting her appointment from

DWA President Paul Lamb, Joany said:

“DWA has been a massive part of my

snowboard journey and I’m so supportive of

what they do. It’s a goal of mine to become

more involved as a volunteer and on snow.”

Australian Paralympic Chef de Mission

Nick Dean said: “Joany is a wonderful role

model for young women everywhere and a

fine example of what commitment and

determination can achieve. I congratulate

DWA on 40 years promoting the advance -

ment of participation by people with a

disability in wintersport both in Australia and


DWA and members wish Joany every

success and luck at 2018 Peongchang Winter

Paralympics which begins on March 9th.

Rick Coate


Disabled Wintersport Australia

Established in 1978 as the Australian

Disabled Skiers Federation, we are now

known as Disabled Wintersport Australia

(DWA). The organisation assists thousands of

individuals with disabilities to participate in

winter sports annually. From its programs

some of the world’s finest alpine skiers have

emerged recording victories at the highest

level of international com pe tition. The

organisation's members range from

recreational skiers to Australia’s Winter


Mission “To promote and foster the

advancement of participation by people with

a disability in wintersport both in Australia

and overseas.”

Vision “The equality of opportunity for

people with disabilities to participate at all

levels in the winter sport of their choice.”

For more information on Joany please see:

DWA Promotional Film; Finding Freedom on

the Snow



All Media and Corporate Enquiries to CEO

Rick Coate

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 23

24 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018


“I love the smell of (burning) Juniper in the morning”

By Jim Truscott

I love to go a-wandering, along the mountain track, and as I go, I love to sing, my knapsack on my

back. Val-deri, Val-dera, Val-deri, Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Val-deri, Val-dera. My knapsack on my back.

A climber’s lament sung to the tune of I want to be a Khumbu Ranger and live a life of mountain danger!

Huddled together in the pre-dawn with two Sherpas at 6,200 metres and braced against 45 knot winds, David

and I made the decision to turn back at the traverse below the summit. For years I had wanted to do something

dangerous in the mountains with my son. The Sherpas advised that it would be another three hours to reach the

summit, and in the journey from mediocrity to self-fulfilment we had achieved enough pain and frissons of

excitement even if Buddha has set enlightenment at the highest level. We were both suffering from heaving chest

syndrome to the cadence of ‘I must, I must, increase my bust’ and two days later we both still experienced over

exertion of our diaphragm muscles.

It would have been good to have had another day

to go for the summit again but our tight trekking

program did not allow this time. It is all about karma

and maybe Buddha has something else in mind for us.

Were we unlucky? Probably yes as from a climbing

perspective it would have been better if we had

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 25

allowed two days at our High Camp but such is the

challenge of combining climbing and trekking into a

tight schedule. In hindsight and given the snow con -

ditions we probably could have started in daylight after

the wind had dropped. Maybe we should have

checked the weather forecast ourselves.

The WA Family expedition at our High Camp at

5800 metres with jet stream wind blowing off the

summits of Everest and Lhotse (4 th highest).

Makalu (5 th highest) and Cho Oyu (6 th highest) also in view.

It all began a year before when Lisa (D3) asked me

to go to the Himalayas. So one in, all in, and the once

in a lifetime family expedition began to take shape.

Months of physical preparation commenced, although

our local Reabold Hill fell well short of what was to

come. With only one month to go I experienced an ’ah

fuck moment’ at a body pump session in the gym when

I re-ripped my hiatus hernia and my nagging jumpers

left knee was not getting any better. My kingdom for

some pain free knees! Woe was me, so I stocked up on

pain killers for an SAS candy fuelled ascent if necessary,

but it was not to be. Success in the Himalayas is hard

won. My first Himalayan expedition 37 years ago to

Ganesh IV in Nepal had ended in tragedy when our

high camp including me was swept away by an ava -

lanche and I did not summit. On my second Himalayan

expedition to Broad Peak in Pakistan, 33 years ago, I

turned back just short of 8,000 metres due to intense

cold and I did not summit. On my third Himalayan

expedition 31 years ago to Everest I reached the South

Col at 8,000 metres but a subsequent window of

opportunity was negated by jet stream winds. From our

high point on Mera Peak we could see the summit of

Everest and the same strong jet stream winds blowing

into China. On my fourth Himalayan expedition 25

years ago I was lucky to claim the first Australian ascent

of Nanda Devi East in India.

I had not heard of Mera Peak before but its

excellent views of six of the fourteen 8,000 metre

mountains and straight forward climbing made it an

obvious choice. My four children are not diehard

climbers like myself and the instructions from my wife

Colette were “not to kill the children.” Walking the

Kokoda Track the year before was tough but there

needed to be some perception of danger as well. We

needed a tiger for breakfast. It had been 30 years since

I had been to the Himalayas and boy was I out of date

with the abundance of lodges on the walk in. There is

no requirement for Tilman ‘memorable bathes’ any -

more as most lodges have hot showers! Tillman and

Shipton would both roll in their graves as the Internet

of Everything has replaced planning on the back of a

postcard. Indeed Tilman’s programmed no-speaking

days on expeditions have been replaced by social

media surfing at lodges. There are now a plethora of

people climbing and trekking in the Himalayas with 28

lodges and 500 guest beds in Lukla alone! We were

told that there is a veritable Conga line (highway of

zonkey, donkey, cow, yak and human shit) on the track

between Lukla and Everest base camp. There is a

commercial proposition to limit the number of visitors

in each valley and for the government to set higher

rates by a multitude of trekking companies.

After the mandatory steaks at Yak-Donalds and a

visit to funeral pyres and temples in Kathmandu, we

flew to Lukla, the mountain airstrip and entry point to

Sherpa country. We were reminded that it was nak

butter and not yak butter! The walk in to Mera Peak

makes the trek to Everest base camp and parts of the

Baltoro Glacier in Pakistan look like a doddle. We

celebrated a Puja (religious ceremony) with a Lama in a

rock cave on the way in to bless the journey and paid

his fees for enlightenment. At least he has not been

replaced by social media. Climate change has had its

impact over the last 30 years that our Sirdar has been

working in the Inkhu Khola Valley and there are massive

ice-free, rock walls awaiting rock climbers and probably

lots of bolts.

In the end all of our faces were hurting from the

wind and our various bodies were suffering from snoticles,

farting and the risk of follow through, vomiting,

blood in snot, rapid onset of headaches, tight chests,

vertigo, exertion, cracked lips, restless sleep, weird

dreams etc etc. These signs and symptoms were

diffused and offset by vista, vista and more vista, Dal

Bhat, bamboo forests, cheery Sherpani’s (good karma),

Sherpa tea, Sherpa stew, masala tea, bonhomie,

noodles with egg, the crunch-crunch of crampons, the

poke-poke of climbing sticks, Tibetan bread, wifi

equipped mountain huts (called lodges), and by

meeting half of Europe on the track etc etc.

We were ably supported by Cho La Adventures. My

lasting image is of the Cho La cook from High Camp

running down a snow slope with a thermos of hot tea

for us plodders! It is not in our Australian culture for

people to eat separately but we came to accept their

ways. Mingmar our Sirdar was physically strong and he

and his son Phuri had much good humour to put up

with us. They would say “good work”, “enjoy”, “ready

now”, “almost there“, “maybe/maybe not”, “20

minutes”, “close now, “why not” “Nepali flat”, don’t

worry; chicken curry” and “Dal Bhat power, trek for 24

26 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

hours.” The owner, Nima Lama is a Nepali businessman

with noble ideas to improve the lot of porters to

become trek assistants or better. His ‘people-watching’

skills enabled him to adroitly identify the personalities

of my four children. All progeny have explored a little

more about their mind and body. David is a better

father than I, and he was good to his sisters. Jessica

(D1) showed strong minded Irish tendencies. Sarah

(D2) is cautious like her mother and she had to confront

her flying demons. Lisa (D3) is a mountain goat and

Heath increased his confidence. Mountaineering is

90% mental and the other half is physical. Hence

mission (very much) accomplished.

The walkout over a high-pass directly back to Lukla

and requiring instep crampons was challenging to say

the least but the wait at Lukla airport for a scheduled

flight out was a drag until a helicopter became neces -

sary to fly back to Kathmandu in order to catch our

international flight. Sitting beside the Lukla airstrip was

akin to all those wasted years of parachuting at drop

zones or biding your time in War Zone D. Listening to

Lukla airport was like being on the USS Carl Vinson in

the Gulf but with Nepali navy pilots. The airport was

crazier than Mumbai; wonderfully chaotic as three

planes must fly together in two 3-plane sorties for air

separation safety in the mountain clouds. By chance I

spoke briefly with the legendary Reinhold Messner in

the lounge at Katmandu airport. He was the first man

to climb Everest without oxygen in 1978 and it was a

fitting, rohmro (great) and symbolic end to our trip. I

must get on with my plan to climb a mountain every

year until the day I die; live, climb, repeat. Om mani

padme hum.

Four Rules for Khumbu Rangers

• Don’t get sick

• Climb to climb again another day

• Climb with Social Media (suck it up Tilman)

• Additional maxim. If you are cold put a hat on.

Jim Truscott is a climber who pretended to be in the

army for 26 years. He has gone on multiple expeditions

in the jungles, seas, oceans and mountains of the

world. You could hear the sighs of relief in Canberra

Headquarters when he left the green machine. David,

Jessica, Sarah and Lisa Truscott were all army brats and

they used to run amok at Fort Gellibrand and in Camp -

bell Barracks. David Truscott is now a part time Q’y in

6 Squadron.

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 27

28 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

Chief of Army bans soldiers from wearing

'arrogant' death symbols

Australia's Chief of Army, Lieutenant General

Angus Campbell, has issued a directive that prohibits

the wearing of 'death' symbols. Lieutenant General

Campbell said the practice was arrogant, illconsidered

and that it eroded the ethos of the Army.

The directive was circulated as an internal minute on

April 17, and later posted to unofficial social media

pages for commentary.

Several symbols were specifically prohibited

because of their violent, murderous and vigilante

symbolism including the Grim Reaper, the Skull and

Crossbones, Spartans, and the Phantom or Punisher.

Lieutenant General Campbell, who this week was

named as the next Chief of the Defence, stated in his

order that he had come across the symbols worn as

patches or badges while visiting army units in

Australia and overseas. He reiterated that such

symbols were at odds with Army values while

acknowledging this was not the intention of those

who wore them.

"Such symbology is never presented as illintentioned

and plays too much of modern popular

culture," Lieutenant General Campbell said. "But it is

always ill-considered and implicitly encourages the

inculcation of an arrogant hubris and general

disregard for the most serious responsibility of our

profession; the legitimate and discriminate take of life.

"As soldiers our purpose is to serve the state,

employing violence with humility always and

compassion wherever possible. This symbology to

which I refer erodes this ethos of service."

ABC North Qld

By David Chen

A member of Iraq's elite Special Forces wears a skull mask

in the fight against the Islamic State in 2016.

(AP: Khalid Mohammed ~ Courtesy ABC North Qld)

In the directive, Army officers were ordered to take

immediate action to remove any formal or informal

symbols from within their command. Lieutenant

General Campbell acknowledged the decision would

upset a minority of soldiers.

"I appreciate that without explanation some will

rile at this direction, so please ensure my reasoning is

explained but be clear that I am adamant that this is

right for the Army." "I wish to reiterate that the use of

symbology/iconography is uncommon within Army.

The overwhelming majority of force elements are very

much on the right path," he said.

When approached by the ABC the Department of

Defence issued the fol -

lowing short statement: The

Chief of Army issued an

internal minute to all

Commanders on 17 April,

2018 to reinforce that all

symbols, emblems and

iconography used across the

organisation must align with

the Army values of courage,

initiative, respect and team -

work. Death symbol ogy

demonstrates a general dis -

regard for the most serious

responsibility of the Army's

profession; the legitimate

and discriminate taking of


COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 29

Michael Parker Foundation

Kshamawati Hostel Project, Nepal

In late 2017 my partner Drew Gordon and I under -

took a very special journey to a remote area of Nepal

to experience an extraordinary welcome and celeb -


In 2009 the beloved eldest son of Bruce & Gail

Parker and brother to Amy & Dan passed away un -

expectedly in Kathmandu after having just summited

Makalu. At 8500m, Makalu is considered far more

difficult than Everest, a mountain Mick was determined

to conquer after a previous disaster a few years prior.

Michael was a climber and adventurer who managed to

summit five of the Himalayas’ 8,000m peaks and

attempt eight others, including Everest from the north.

This was even more remarkable given that he climbed

without oxygen.

Drew and I knew Michael personally with fond

memories as a trek companion on the Kokoda Track as

well as a periodic running companion around the hills

of Warrandyte. Mick was a little quirky and always did

things in his own quiet way.

Before Mick passed away he had indicated that he

would like to give back to the people of Nepal with

whom he had such a bond. He dreamed about

supporting schoolchildren whose remoteness and

family circumstances prevented them from gaining an


And so the Michael Parker Foundation (MPF) was

formed by his mother and father – Gail & Bruce as well

as his younger siblings Dan & Amy to honour the life of

Mick and to provide disadvantaged Nepalese children

with educational opportunities.

In 2015 with the generous assistance of World

Expeditions Foundation (WEF), a landmark project was


The Kshamawati Higher Secondary School is

located some 150km north east of Kathmandu in the

beautiful Kalinchok hills. It has about 420 students and

was founded in 1947. The local Kshamawati village

consists of 85% Thamis people

who are a highly marginalised

ethnic group. With 90% of this

com munity living below the

poverty line and 78% of the people illiterate it seemed

that a residential hostel attached to the school would

be ideal to assist needy students to concentrate on

their education with the attention and guidance of


The proposed hostel was to be a 2-storey stone

building with a girls’ wing on one side, a boys’ wing on

the other and a service and study area in the middle.

Each wing would have 10 dormitories over 2 floors and

would accommodate up to 240 students. The service

section in the middle will have a kitchen and dining

hall. The building would have biomass toilets and solar

water heaters. The building would be built locally using

brick, stone, mud mortar and local timber with earth -

quake resistant technology.

In 2015, Rob Prior, one of the six Trustees of the

MPF, travelled to Nepal to assist in the initial building

of the hostel. Shortly after his visit, Nepal experienced

an earthquake which was particularly devastating to the

people of the area in which the hostel is being built.

Although the hostel foundations were not badly

affected, the school and neighbouring village was

impacted upon. As the hostel is being built by local

craftsmen, the earthquake had a major impact on the

progress of the building.

Some two-and-a-half years after the earthquake,

Drew and I were given the opportunity to represent the

MPF and to visit the Michael Parker Hostel.

The hostel building is being coordinated and

supervised by a very impressive alumni group con -

sisting of an architect, past students and principals as

well as leading Nepalese business people with diverse

international experience and education.

After travelling 150km for 8 hours in a 4-wheel drive

Students assembled for the opening of the

Michael Parker Hostel

Girls’ Hostel building in progress

30 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

on very challenging roads from Kathmandu, then a 1km

walk to the Kshamawati Hostel, we understood the

remoteness of the hostel. We also understood how

difficult it could be for children to get to school


On our arrival at the school we were totally over -

whelmed by the greeting offered by students, the

Alumni and officials. We were given a very ceremo -

nious welcome with speeches, dancing and the official

cutting of the opening ribbon.

We were given a guided tour of the hostel and were

very pleased to see the ongoing progress. Bunkrooms

were completed and were about to be furnished with

beds and lockers with a goal to have initial female

students accommodated early in 2018.

Since our visit, the Chairman of the Kshamawati

Michael Parker Foundation Alumni has informed us

that the hostel is now housing 33 female students on a

trial basis for 3 months. This will give the girls the

opportunity to concentrate on their studies for their

upcoming exams. A teacher has been assigned as a

Warden and an all-important experienced cook has

been engaged to look after the girls.

Work is progressing on the boys’ wing and they will

be occupying their accommodation in the near future.

We were very excited to be present for the opening

of this important project and know that Michael in his

own quiet way would have been thrilled that his legacy

lives on.

For information on how to donate to the MPF or to

purchase a copy of Spirit High - the Michael Parker

Story, go to

Official opening and dedication to Michael Parker

The first group of students to be accommodated in the



An oldie but a goodie from PTS Nowra when I did my course.

"Check equipment" the dispatcher cries

And the Lord's prayer is lost in "Centre pack ties"

The static line is held is held in one clammy hand

And your gear is held on by one "lackey band"

Your mouth is dry and you need to throw up

But your helmets on and your mouth is clamped


"Actions Stations" the cry is clear

But right - left - right won't hide your fear.

Oh God be a pal

And save me from a total "mal"

But before there is time to ponder

The orders there, "stand in the door!"

From all sides there comes advice

"feet together or pay the price"

The green light is on, the word is GO!

Hand quits static line and "oh no no no"

You're falling now and you start to scream

As you're whirled around in the old slip stream.

With your eyes tight shut and head down and pray

And a voice that's yours squeaks "Canopy OK"

But the rigging lines, oh God what to do?

Is it the kicking method or stirring for you?

You've forgotten observation so steering next

So it's three big pulls and time for a rest

No fool you must pull down

It's only 50 feet from you to the ground

Front side or back, it depends on the sway

Knees and feet together, elbows in is the way

The ground rushes, it's a sicken sight

You decide to do a back left and do a side right

You lie there and think you are dead

When a voice hollers out "what's your name


COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 31

Leaving the ADF

At some point in their career, all ADF members will

leave the military and transition to civilian life. It’s a

significant decision that can involve your family.

Planning early will make sure you’re informed and

ready to enter the next phase of your life.

You must complete your transition with ADF

Transition Support Services so you understand the

process, your administrative requirements, and the

support available to you. We encouage you to involve

your family throughout your transition experience.

Transition support network

Transitioning to civilian life is a shared responsibility.

When you decide to leave the ADF you should engage

with your family, your Unit, and ADF Transition Support


Your Unit can speak to you about the transition

process and connect you with your local ADF Transition

Centre. Your Centre will introduce you to a Transition

Support Officer who will help you and your family

through the transition process and:

• provide you with an individual transition plan

• offer career coaching during your transition and

up to 12 months afterwards

• help you meet your administrative requirements

• help you leave with all documentation like

service, medical, and training records

• facilitate connections to Defence and govern -

ment support services

nationally throughout the year. You’ll receive

information from Defence and other organisaitons on

topics like finance and superannuation, health,

relocating, employment, and ex-service organisation


ADF Member and Family Transition Guide

The ADF Member and Family Transition Guide – A

Practical Manual to Transitioning contains detailed

information on the transition process for ADF

members. The Guidce includes information on support

services and administrative reuqirement. It includes

checklists to help you navigate transition process.

ADF Transition Seminar

You and your family can attend an ADF Transition

Serminar at any time during your ADF career to help

you prepare for your transition. Seminars are held

32 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 33

Did you know?

You can get your scripts

filled ONLINE

Private Convenient Easy




34 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018


Leadership Secrets of the

Australian Army

Brigadier Nicholas Jans (Retired) OAM

Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, 2018

Reviewed by Jim Truscott

I was drawn by the catchy title as I have spent

eighteen years as a consultant providing leadership

mentoring and management advice to multinational

and national corporations in 41 countries, preceded

by twenty-six years as a strategic group manager and

leader of operational teams in high-risk international

engagements. Having held six command appoint -

ments in operational Army units I was to find that the

title is a misnomer as there is really nothing secretive

about leadership in the military or business.

Written in a similar vein to Donald Krause’s Sun Tzu

The Art of War for Executives (1996) and as well as

Stanley Bing’s Sun Tzu Was a Sissy, The Real Art of

War (2006) it caused me to reflect on my own

leadership and management experiences in business

and in the military. The book is as much about

followership as it is leadership and the text reminded

me very much of my own leadership training at

Duntroon in the mid-1970s by bemedalled instructors.

Nick Jans coins the Captain-Coach model which is

authoritative, but affiliative and egalitarian as the basis

of the Army’s success with leadership as the catalyst.

He author further uses the Mission-Team-Me construct

to describe an underpinning ethos in the military

similar to the perhaps more simplistic ‘individual

needs, groups needs and goal’ model inculcated in

my cohort in the mid-1970s. Did these new words just

repeat the older ethos in another way? There was

really nothing new (to me) but the thesis is presented

in a much more practical way as it is full of con -

tempora neous gems much better than a bland

leadership pamphlet.

The basis of the ‘secrets’ is the central theme and

separate chapters on each of the 3-Rs of representing,

relating and running the team and their apparent

liking to success in business through many examples

of people who have worked in both spheres.

Representing is just leading by example, doing the

right thing, giving direction and meaning, and

manage ment by walking around. Relating is

supportive people management, knowing your

troops, subor dinates to you but no less important,

coaching and counselling, being firm and fair but not

friendly. Running the team is to be good at the basics,

delegation and sensible autonomy, mission command

and post mortems. Essentially ethos, professional

practice and teamwork underpin the described

leader ship code of practice.

I was challenged by the author’s statement that not

everything that the military does has a civilian parallel

but that there are more similarities than realized. The

reality is that it is easier to motivate and organize in

the military than it is in business as there is a basis of

trust in the military. In business, trust only exists within

the confines of a contract and even then it is a

completely different battlefield as loyalty does not

exist in business other than to one’s self. Leadership is

only a necessity in business in crisis situations where

there is uncertainty and risk (of failure) in abundance

otherwise leadership in normal business is more akin

to guerrilla warfare where there are constantly shifting

allegiances. Furthermore business is a war where you

sleep with the enemy every day. The (business) war

goes on and on and on and there is nothing you can

do to stop it except fight in it until either you or it is

done. Business is not like war in this one critical

aspect. Unlike military operations there is no end to

business. People die, only to pop up again in another

location. You win on Friday and then you loose on


All of that said it is an easy to read leadership

descanter for anyone seeking to take charge be they

a digger spokesperson or a doyen in business.

Leaders and followers will find this book equally of

value as the author rightly says, the more you know

about it, the better you will go.

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 35

Recognising and acting to repair traumatic stress injury

By Prof Zachary Steel, St John of God Professorial Chair

for Trauma and Mental Health

Human beings are equipped with innate response

systems optimised to support and maximise the capacity of

individuals to respond effectively when faced with extreme

threat, danger and moral burden. The work of special forces

service members will result in these processes being placed

under enormous challenge and stress at times. It appears to

be a normal human response following exposure to an

especially traumatic or troubling incident that an individual

will experience heighted emotional reactivity and a range of

intrusive reminders of the incident. These processes may well

be critical in assisting humans to down-regulate the stress

response system and allow a return to functioning after such

a critical incident. Training, institutional support and event

preparation can support the capacity of individuals to endure

such incidents and to operate effectively under high stress

and threat environments.

It is when these such post-incident reactions endure and

fail to settle or subside over a reasonable amount of time

leading to reduced functioning that a traumatic stress injury

may have occurred. Loss of functioning associated with a

traumatic stress injury may be most apparent in life outside of

the service environment where the stress-response reactions

are more clearly incosistent with everyday life activities. While

such injuries may recover without specialist treatment,

evidence suggests that a substantial proportion of such

injuries will endure for prolonged periods of time depleting

an individual’s resources and capacities leading to disability.

Research suggests 3 important facts about such con -


(1) there is no absolute immunity from acquiring a traumatic

stress injury including amongst highly trained, capable


(2) the risk of acquiring such an injury increases with the

number of exposures, severity and intensity of traumatic


(3) there are treatments that have demonstrated a capacity

to reduce the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder

and restore functional capacity.

If you, or those close to you, believe you have sustained

a traumatic stress injury that is not resolving as you would

like, it may be time to reach out for assessment and treat -


There are a number specialist hospitals and clinics in

Australia that specialize in working with currently and exserving

defence personal who have experienced traumatic

stress injuries (see list of services at http://phoenix - St John of

God Richmond Hospital has been a leading treatment facility

for service-related PTSD for more than 20 years. We can help

link you to doctors and clinicians able to work with you to

understand the nature of your injury and to work with you to

develop a treatment and recovery plan.

36 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018


A little history most people will never know.

Interesting Veterans Statistics off the Vietnam

Memorial Wall in the US.

There are 58,267 names now listed on that

polished black wall, including those added in 2010.

The names are arranged in the order in which they

were taken from us by date and within each date the

names are alphabetised. It is hard to believe it is 61

years since the first casualty.

• The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon,

of North Weymouth, Mass. Listed by the U.S.

Depart ment of Defense as having been killed on

June 8, 1956. His name is listed on the Wall with that

of his son, Marine Corps LCpl Richard B. Fitzgibbon

III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965.

• There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.

• 39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger.

• 8,283 were just 19 years old.

• The largest age group, 33,103 were 18 years old.

• 12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.

• 5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.

• One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.

• 997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam.

• 1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in


• 31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.

• Thirty one sets of parents lost two of their sons.

• 54 soldiers attended Thomas Edison High School in

Philadelphia. I wonder why so many from one school

• 8 Women are on the Wall, Nursing the wounded.

• 244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor

during the Vietnam War; 153 of them are on the Wall

Beallsville, Ohio with a population of 475 lost 6 of

her sons.

• West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per

capita in the nation.

• There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.

• The Marines of Morenci - They led some of the

scrappiest high school football and basketball teams

that the little Arizona copper town of Morenci (pop

5,058) had ever known and cheered. They enjoyed

roaring beer busts. In quieter moments, they rode

horses along the Coronado Trail, stalked deer in the

Apache National Forest. And in the patriotic

camaraderie typical of Morenci's mining families, the

nine graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group

in the Marine Corps. Their service began on

Independence Day, 1966. Only 3 returned home.

• The Buddies of Midvale - LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy

Martinez, Tom Gonzales were all boyhood friends

and lived on three consecutive streets in Midvale,

Utah on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues. They lived

only a few yards apart. They played ball at the

adjacent sandlot ball field. And they all went to

Vietnam. In a span of 16 dark days in late 1967, all

three would be killed. LeRoy was killed on

Wednesday, Nov. 22, the fourth anniversary of John

F. Kennedy's assassination. Jimmy died less than 24

hours later on Thanksgiving Day. Tom was shot dead

assaulting the enemy on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor

Remembrance Day.

• The most casualty deaths for a single day was on

January 31, 1968 ~ 245 deaths.

• The most casualty deaths for a single month was

May 1968 - 2,415 casualties were incurred.

For most Americans who read this they will only see

the numbers that the Vietnam War created. To those of

us who survived the war, and to the families of those

who did not, we see the faces, we feel the pain that

these numbers created. We are, until we too pass

away, haunted with these numbers, because they were

our friends, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and

daughters.There are no noble wars, just noble


COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 37

Australian Defence Force Academy

Sports and Voluntary Extra Curricular Clubs

ADFA offers a range of sporting and voluntary extra-curricular clubs (VECCS) for cadets, encouraging them

to compete against and become involved with local and interstate organisations.

Sporting Clubs and VECCs currently offered at ADFA include:

• Adventure Training

• Academy Bands

• Academy Board Riders

• Anglers

• Aviation Interest

• Australian Football League

• Basketball

• Catholics and Friends

• Cricket

• Crossfit

• Community Service VECC

• Cyber Security

• Cycling

• Debating


• Fencing

• Flying Disc Association


• Hockey


• Marathon and Distance

Running Club

• Maritime Interest

• Military History

• Military Shooting VECC

• Military Skills

• Motorcycle VECC

• Navigators

• Netball

• Performing Arts

• Photography

• Precision Drill Team

• Rowing

• Rugby

• Rugby League


• Sailing

• Small Balls Interest Group

• Soccer

• Squash

• Strength & Conditioning

• Swimming

• Tae Kwon Do

• Tennnis

• Touch Football

• Triathlon

• Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

• Volleyball

• Water Polo

• 4x4 VECC

For more information go to CadetLife/Sport.asp

38 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

The Positive Relationship between

Physical Activity and PTSD

Exercise has a positive clinical

effect on depressive symptoms and

may be as effective as psychological

or pharmaceutical therapies for some

individuals with PTSD. Rosebaum et

al, 2014 suggests Physical

activity/exercise is a highly effective

method in reducing symptoms of

depression and for people

experiencing other mental health


Evidence demonstrates that an

appropriate exercise intervention can

achieve significant benefits to

symptoms, depression, anxiety and

stress, changes in body shape and

sedentary time associated with

PTSD, and non-significant trends for

sleep quality improvement according

to Rosenbaum, 2013.

The associated symptoms and the

improvements may be related to

psychosocial benefits of the

intervention, rather than functional

capacity, but there is also a strong

empirical (observational) link

between improvements in functional

capacity and psychological status

according to the author, 2016.

People with PTSD are four times as

likely to have type 2 diabetes

(Lukaschek et al, 2013) and rates of

overweight and obesity are as high

as 92%. To add to these statistics,

suffers of PTSD are shown to be

less physically active due to a

number of factors including pain,

dysfunctional and general lack of

desire or both, according Boscarino

et al, 2004.

Adding some form of regular

physical activity can have a

significant effect on a sufferer of

PTSD. It’s important to note, the type

of activity doesn’t matter, what

matters is that the person is moving

and also having fun doing it. If you

would like to become physically

active again and help to combat

some of your PTSD related

symptoms then please consult your

GP and discuss your options for

referral to another health care

professional (exercise physiologist or

physiotherapist) for help with your

other associated or co-morbid

conditions ie lower back pain,

arthritis and or obesity.

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 39

Phone Mike Keenan ~ 07 4634 4012 • Email:


No Capital Cost / One month’s notice to terminate


SHARES AVAILABLE in following leases

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Phone: 0407 948483



40 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 41

- A Welcome Breakthrough in Upper Limb Prosthetics

When it comes to multi-articulating upper limb

prosthetics, there have been some great achievements,

but also mixed results.

The engineering challenges are many, with chief amongst

them being the robustness and therefore the real

practicality and usefulness of the hand for the end user.

About 6 years ago, due to breaking both his wrists in a

biking accident, engineer Mathew Jury became

acquainted with what it's like to lose the use of a limb.

Thus began an obsession to create a multi-articulating

prosthetic that would dramatically overcome the

weaknesses he clearly saw plaguing the current design

solutions on offer.

He recognised that currently available myo-electric hands

have two key deficiencies - water resistance and


Following three years of burning midnight oil and two 3D

printers later, the real breakthroughs began to emerge.

Mathew knew he was on to something very promising.

Mathew gathered a multi-talented team around him, and

a growing resource of contractors. With funding for

research and development TASKA(tm) moved from

prototype to reality. Today the TASKA(tm) team share the

same mission:

"We are all driven by the same thing. Developing a

prosthetic hand that is not just a little better, but hugely

better. For us innovation has never been about creating a

piece of new technology - it is all about delivering real life

practicality that improves people's lives."

Well known and accomplished Australian Orthopaedic

Surgeon, Dr Nick Hartnell, has extensive knowledge in

this area of traumatic injury and he sees enormous

advantages in the TASKA hand.

The precision design and engineering of TASKA(tm) has

made simple what is not in other models. The control

system and the hand mechanism have been made as

practical as possible so you can do more tasks. You can

choose to change grips by hitting a button on the back of

the prosthetic hand as well as traditional EMG methods.

The multi-articulating hand mechanism is flexible yet

tough in a way that sets it apart. Its open grasp is wide so

you can pick up more objects. Its grip speed is impressive

- AND, it's waterproof.

This kind of precision engineering opens the door for

practical people to complete many more tasks inside and


The TASKA hand stores more than 20 Grip patterns.

However, most day-to-day activities can be performed

using just a small set of 3 frequent-use grips:



Dr Hartnell operates out of Bowral, NSW and can be

contacted for further information via email:

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 43


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44 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

Australian Commando Association

QLD Inc.

PO Box 185, Sherwood QLD 4075


1941 - 1946 1955 -

President: Nick Hill Secretary: Tony Mills Treasurer: George Mialkowski


The Newsletter Of The Australian Commando Association



PRESIDENT – Mr Nick Hill, VICE PRESIDENT – Mr Tony Mills

SECRETARY – Mr Graham Gough, TREASURER – Mr Wayne Douglas, SOCIAL MEMBER – Mr Mark Stanieg,

SOCIAL MEDIA ADMIN – Mr John Roxburgh, COMMITTEE MEMBERS – Mr Keith Buck & Mr Mick Slattery,

DVA ADVOCATE – Mr Paul Copeland, OAM. DVA WELFARE OFFICER – Mr Glenn Cochrane, OAM.

GP – Dr Kieran McCarthy, Psychologist – Ms Megan Fry, PADRE – Padre Michael Polkington

VICE PATRON – Mr Doug Baird, father of the late CPL Cameron Baird, VC. MG. of 2nd Cdo Regt

Web Address – Postal Address – PO Box 185 Sherwood, QLD 4075,

Email -



Welcome to the latest edition of our

quarterly newsletter, “STRIKE SWIFTLY &

WITHOUT WARNING”, the Newsletter of

the Australian Commando Association Queensland.

This quarter has seen the Association take a break

over the Xmas and New Year Periods and we had our

AGM & first meeting for 2017 on Sunday 11 February

where we elected a new Executive Committee.

Congratulations to all those who were elected or reelected.

We are busily preparing for this year’s events

and a detailed list is located on page 28. We do hope

that, as many of you are able to attend this year’s

events. The Treasurer and I have sent out renewal

notices for membership. Thus far we only have 36 out

of a possible 75 who have paid their dues. If you

haven’t paid your fees for 2018 please do so ASAP.

Your membership allows us to assist with events and

organise things for you.

ANZAC Day Dawn services were held across the

State and one of our Committee Members, Mick

Slattery, conducted a Dawn Service on board an oilrig

platform off the North West Shelf of WA. I had the

privilege of laying one of the original QCA wreaths at

the Dawn service in Canungra. There was small turn out

for the ANZAC Day March in Brisbane with a few new

faces as well as 96 yr. old WW2 Commando Cec

O’Brien who refused to get in a buggy (to the absolute

annoyance to the ANZAC Day organisers), and

marched all the way, well done Cec! After the march a

luncheon was held with the RMAQ at the Maritime

Museum in Southbank. Next year we are looking at

having a luncheon in Southbank after the March. We

will be starting up our Commando Luncheons again

and the first one for 2018 will be on Sunday 27 May in

Southbank, details to follow.

In September we will be conducting Commandos

Return (Timor Awakening) again, which will be a return

to Timor Leste available for those who have served our

nation as a Commando or the family member of a

Commando who unfortunately is no longer with us.

The Expression of Interest will be attached to this

newsletter as well as the CR18 Brief.

So I hope that you enjoy our 5 th Newsletter and as

always you are welcome to submit ads or letters,

images etc.

Commando For Life

Nick Hill


COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 45


May 1941

No1 Independent Company was raised and trained at

Wilsons Promontory Victoria, the home and birthplace

of Australian Commando.

17 April 1942

2/5 Cdo Coy arrives in Port Moresby, New Guniea

during an air raid.

Unusual suspects at the

ANZAC Day March

Brisbane 2018


Significant Commando Dates .................................p.24

First of the First – 1 st Independent Company .........p.25

In Focus – SGT Brett Wood MG. DSM

2 nd Commando Regiment .......................................p.27

Commandos For Life ..............................................p.28

Upcoming ACA Qld Events ....................................p.28

Books Of Interest– The Commando

by Ben McKelvey ....................................................p.29

Commandos Return ................................................p,29


A Calm Mind


QCA Wreath at the

Canungra District

Memorial ANZAC Day


• Reduce stress & anxiety

• Reduce PTSD symptoms

• Have better sleep

• Learn to calm the mind & relax

the body

• Stop reactivity and find peace in

the present moment

Join a Day Retreat in Nature and learn

evidence-based strategies to calm your

mind and relax your body. Join a small

group or create your own private group.

More info: 0430 434 417 –

May 1942

2/6 & 2/7 Cdo Coy’s formed at the Guerrilla Warfare

School, Wilsons Promontory, Victoria.

March 1943

2/6 Cdo Coy reforms as the 2/6 Cdo Sqn of the

2/7 Cdo Regt at the Jungle Warfare School at

Canungra, Qld after returning from New Guniea.

April 1943

2/4 Cdo Coy reforms as the 2/4 Cdo Sqn at the

Jungle Warfare School at Canungra, Qld after

returning from Timor.

May 1943

53 men of 2/3 Cdo Sqn conducts an attack on

Ambush Knoll in New Guniea against the Japanese

and takes the position. The JIA attempts several

counter attacks over several days, but are

repelled each time.

2/5 Cdo Coy reforms as the 2/5 Cdo Sqn of the

2/7 Cdo Regt at the Jungle Warfare School at

Canungra, Qld after returning from New Guinea.

2/7 Cdo Coy conducts combat operations in

Bena Bena, New Guinea as part of Bena Force.

2/4 Cdo Sqn conducts combat operations against the

Japanese on Tarakan Island off Borneo.

2/9 Cdo Sqn lands at Dove Bay, Wewak and

established the beachhead.

13-19 May 1945

2/10 Cdo Sqn is surrounded by Japanese troops in

the Wewak area and fights off numerous attacks.

06 May 1969

WO2 Ray Simpson DCM & Bar awarded the Victoria

Cross for Valour in South Vietnam. Ray was attached

to AATTV from 1 Cdo Coy.

46 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018


1 ST Independent Company

The 1 st Independent Company was formed in

May/June 1941 and was trained at the No. 7

Infantry Training Centre at Tidal River on

Wilsons Promontory in Victoria. Originally the company

was raised to serve in the Middle East although, at that

time there was uncertainty about the role that the

company would fill there. Indeed, within the Australian

Army there was a section that saw no need for the

independent companies, believing that they would

prove to be more of a drain on resources than anything



With an authorised strength of 17 officers and 256

other ranks, the 1st Independent Company was

composed of a company headquarters consisting of 13

personnel, three 60-man platoons named A, B and C,

each of three 19-man sections numbered in series from

1 to 9, plus an engineer section of 21 men, a 34-man

signals section, a medical section of six men and a

transport section with four men. A major commanded

the company, with a captain as a second-in-command.

A captain also commanded each platoon, while all

sections except the medical and lieutenants

commanded transport sections. A captain commanded

the medical section.

New Ireland & The South Pacific

In 1941, as the threat of war with Imperial Japan

loomed, the main body of the company was sent to

Kavieng, New Ireland, to protect Kavieng airfield whilst

other sections were sent to Namatanai on New Ireland,

Vila in the New Hebrides, Tulagi on Guadalcanal, Buka

on Bougainville, and Lorengau on Manus Island to act

as observers and provided medical treatment to the

inhabitants. Commanded by Major James Edmonds-

Wilson, in the event of an invasion of New Britain by

the Japanese the 1st Independent Company was

under orders to resist long enough to destroy key

airfields and other military installations such as fuel

dumps, before withdrawing south to wage a guerrilla

war. They did not have to wait very long, as on 21

January 1942, a preparatory bombing raid by about

sixty Japanese aircraft attacked Kavieng. A number of

aircraft were shot down, however, the company's only

means of escape, the schooner Induna Star, was

damaged. Nevertheless, despite the damage the crew

managed to sail the vessel to Kaut where they started

to repair the damage. As they did so, the commandos

withdrew across the island to Sook, having received

word that a large Japanese naval force was

approaching the island.

In the early morning of 22 January 1942, the

Japanese landed at Kavieng with between 3,000 and

4,000 troops. As the lead Japanese troops reached

Kavieng airfield, fighting broke out as the small force

that had remained at the airfield blew up the supply

dump and other facilities. Fighting their way out, the

commandos withdrew towards the main force at Sook,

although a number of men were captured in the

process. Once the company had regrouped at Sook,

on 28 January they withdrew further south to Kaut,

where they helped with the repair of the Induna Star,

before setting out along the east coast of the island.

They reached Kalili Harbour on 31 January but after

learning that the fighting on New Britain was over and

that the Japanese had occupied Rabaul, it was decided

to sail for Port Moresby.

Montevideo Maru

On 2 February the schooner was sighted by a

Japanese plane, which subsequently attacked, causing

considerable damage to the vessel as well as

destroying one of its lifeboats and causing a number of

casualties. The Induna Star began taking on water and

as a result the men were forced to surrender. Under

escort by a Japanese aircraft and then later a destroyer,

they were instructed to sail to Rabaul where they

became prisoners of war. After a few months at

Rabaul, the officers were separated from their NCOs

and men. The officers were transported to Japan where

they remained in captivity for the rest of the war, whilst

the NCOs and men, along with other members of Lark

Force that had been captured and a number of

civilians, where put on to the Japanese passenger ship

Montevideo Maru for transportation. Traveling un -

escorted, the Montevideo Maru sailed from Rabaul on

22 June. On 1 st July 1942, the ship was sighted by an

American submarine, the USS Sturgeon, off the coast

of the Luzon, Philippines. The USS Sturgeon torpedoed

and sunk the Montevideo Maru, without realising it was

a prisoner of war vessel. Only a handful of the

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 47

Japanese crew were rescued, with none of the

between 1,050 and 1,053 prisoners aboard surviving as

they were still locked below deck. All 133 men from the

1 st Independent Company who were aboard the

Montevideo Maru were either killed or drowned.

New Guinea

Meanwhile, the sections of the company that had

not been with the main group at Kavieng managed to

avoid capture by the Japanese. Working with the coast

watchers, they reported Japanese movements and

carried out demolitions until they were later evacuated

or escaped from the islands between April and May

1942. A reinforcement platoon had been trained in

Australia while the company was deployed and after

completing its training sailed on the Macdui, arriving at

Port Moresby on 10 March 1942.

Following their arrival, the platoon was

designated the Independent Platoon Port

Moresby and initially used for local

defence purposes. It was later redesignated

as Detachment 1 Independent

Company. In April 1942, under the

command of Captain Roy Howard, it was

moved to Kudjeru, in New Guinea, to

guard against possible Japanese move -

ment south of Wau along the Bulldog Track. In the

process they became the first Australian Army unit to

cross the Owen Stanley Range. In June, a section

fought alongside the 2/5 th Independent Company as

part of Kanga Force where they participated in a major

raid on the Japanese at Salamaua. Eventually, however,

as a result of the losses suffered during the 1942

campaigns it was decided that the company would be

disbanded and as the survivors were transferred to

other commando units – with the majority of those in

Port Moresby being transferred to the 2/5 th – the 1 st

Independent Company was never raised again.

Throughout the course of the unit's existence, it

suffered 142 men killed in action or died while

prisoners of war. One member of the company was

awarded the Military Cross.

Australian POWs in Shikoku, Japan 1942-45, including members of 1st Independent Company

48 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018



2 nd Commando Regiment

Sergeant Brett Wood MG, DSM was born in

Ferntree Gully, Victoria in 1978. He joined the

Army in 1996 and after recruit and initial

employment training (IET) he was posted to the 6 th

Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR) in

Brisbane. In 1998 then PTE Wood successfully under -

took Commando Selection and Training and after

completing the Commando reinforcement cycle he

was posted to the then 4 th Battalion, The Royal Aust -

ralian Regiment (Commando) (4 Cdo) in November of

that same year.

Brett had significant operational experience, his first

deployment was on Operation Bel Isi II to Bougainville

in 2000. In 2001 he deployed to East Timor on

Operation Tanager with Bravo Commando Company

(BCC) and in 2003 to Iraq on Operation Falconer again

with BCC as part of the Special Operations Task Force

(SOTF). After his return from Iraq he successfully

completed the Advanced Close Quarter Battle (ACQB)

Course for service with Tactical Assault Group - East

(TAG-E) and was deployed during Operation

Scrummage (Rugby World Cup 2003).

In 2006 Sergeant Wood deployed to Afghanistan as

part of the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG)

Rotation III (Rot III) with Delta Commando Company

(DCC). During this deployment he was awarded The

Medal for Gallantry (MG) (Australia’s third highest

award for valour), for leadership in action as a Team

Commander during this tour. He was also awarded the

Unit Citation For Gallantry (UCG) as a member of

SOTG Rot I, II and III.

He rotated back on to TAG-E in 2007 as a SGT and

became the Emergency Action (EA) Commander for

Land Assault Platoon. During this rotation he deployed

on Operation Deluge (APEC Summit) in Sydney and

was awarded the Special Operations Commander –

Australia, Commendation for service with TAG-E. In

2008 he became instrumental in the raising of the

Armed Response Protection Team (ARPT) capability

with in 4 Cdo and during that time deployed several

times to Iraq & Afghanistan to provide security to VIPs,

dignitaries and members of Parliament.

In 2009 he again deployed to Afghanistan on Rot X

this time with Charlie Commando Company (CCC) as a

SGT Section Commander and again on Rot XV in 2011

as a Platoon SGT with CCC. It was during this

deployment during a Counter Narcotic Operation in

support of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

in Kesh Mesh Khan, Helmand Province, Brett was

tragically killed in action as a result of stepping on an

Improvised Explosive Device (IED) whilst chasing up

Taliban Insurgents on 23 May 2011. Brett’s death shook

the Regiment to its core as he was considered to be

one of the most

professional and

one of the best

Commando SGTs in

the Regiment. Brett

was buried at

Rookwood Military

Cemetery in Sydney

on the 3rd of June

2011 with full

military honours. At the service at St. Andrews

Cathedral in Sydney, Brett was Posthumously awarded

the US Military’s Meritorious Service Medal on behalf of

the Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan, General

David Petraeus.

In 2012 Brett was (Posthumously) awarded the

Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) for leadership in


SGT Wood has been awarded the following


• Medal for Gallantry

• Distinguished Service Medal

• Australian Active Service Medal 1975- with clasps:

East Timor, International Coalition Against Terrorism

(ICAT) and Iraq 2003

• Afghanistan Campaign Medal

• Iraq Campaign Medal

• Australian Service Medal 1975- with clasps:

Bougainville, Counter Terrorism/Special Recovery

• Defence Long Service Medal

• Australian Defence Medal

• United Nations Transitional Authority - East Timor


• NATO ISAF Medal;

• US Meritorious Service Medal

• Unit Citation for Gallantry

• Meritorious Unit Citation

• Special Operations Command Australia


• Infantry Combat Badge.

• Citation For The Medal For Gallantry

To be awarded the medal for gallantry -

Corporal Brett Mathew Wood

For gallantry and leadership in action as a

Commando Team Commander, of the Special

Operations Task Group – Task Force 637, whilst

deployed on Operation SLIPPER Rotation Three

Afghanistan, May – September 2006.

Corporal Brett Mathew Wood enlisted in the

Australian Regular Army on the 13 th of February 1996

and was allocated to the 6 th Battalion, the Royal

Australian Regiment. He later successfully completed

Commando training and was posted to the 4 th

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 49

Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (Commando)

in 1998. Corporal Wood’s operational experience

includes deployments on Operations BEL ISI,


On the 17 th of July

2006 during Operation

PERTH, the Commando

Platoon was tasked to

conduct the clearance

of an Anti Coalition

Militia sanctuary in the

Chora Valley, Oruzgan

Province, Afghanistan.

The Platoon was

partnered in support of

an Infantry Company of the United States Army 10 th

Mountain Division. At approximately 1 pm the Infantry

Company came under heavy rocket propelled grenade

and small arms fire on multiple flanks resulting in six

wounded and one soldier killed in action, effectively

halting their advance. Through thick vegetation, facing

large numbers of dispersed Anti Coalition Militia and

under heavy fire, the Commando Platoon commenced

manoeuvring to provide assistance to the element

which was pinned down. During this move the

Commando Platoon received a volley of four rockets

which impacted in the centre of the platoon’s position

resulting in six Australian soldiers wounded in action, a

loss to the platoon by one third of its force. Unknown

to the Commander at the time, Corporal Wood had

also been wounded in the foot by fragmentation from

the rocket propelled grenade barrage.

In order to regain the initiative, Corporal Wood’s

team was tasked by the Commando Platoon Com -

mander to assault forward and clear a group of com -

pounds from which they were receiving Anti Coalition

Militia fire. Under these daunting conditions Corporal

Wood commenced this task without hesita tion,

completing a rapid and aggressive clearance of

numerous threat compounds. Once achieved, both the

United States and Australian elements were free to

continue with the battle providing the necessary time

to effect the back loading of the wounded by

helicopter to the Forward Operating Base.

Throughout the afternoon, numerous and relentless

probing attacks by a determined opponent followed.

Corporal Wood displayed extraordinary leadership and

courage, inspiring his team and the remainder of the

Commando platoon to repel the continued attacks. He

then successfully led a marksmanship team to infiltrate

the Anti Coalition Militia held territory killing seven Anti

Coalition Militia. Only after the engagement had been

completed and the threat to the platoon subsided did

Corporal Wood inform his Commander of the frag -

mentation wound that he had sustained during the

original contact earlier that day. Corporal Wood was

then evacuated to the Casualty Collection Point where

he was provided with medical treatment and later


Corporal Wood’s actions

on the 17 th of July 2006, as a

Commando Team Com -

mander during Operation

PERTH, were testament to

his leadership, fortitude and

sense of duty to his team

and the platoon. His deter -

mination to con tinue to lead

his team during the battle in

extremely hazardous circumstances despite being

wounded ensured that the Commando Platoon

regained the initiative and contributed significantly to a

decisive victory. His gallantry and leadership in the

face of the enemy has been of the highest order and in

keeping with the finest traditions of Special Operations

Command Australia, the Australian Army and the

Australian Defence Force.



The Medal for Gallantry (MG)

Australia’s third highest award for Gallantry

30 March 1966

PTE Phillip Stewart, 1 st Cdo Coy,

Died In Training, Gan Gan, NSW Australia

27 April 2008

LCPL Jason Marks, Delta Cdo Coy 4 th Cdo Bn,

Killed In Action, Urazghan Province Afghanistan

23 May 2011

SGT Brett Wood MG. DSM. Charlie Cdo Coy

2 nd Cdo Regt,

Killed In Action, Helmand Province Afghanistan

Commando For Life

Lest We Forget



09 – 19 September 18 -

Commandos Return, Timor Leste.


COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 51

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52 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

The Commando

The Life and Death of CPL Cameron Baird VC. MG.

By Ben McKelvey

Corporal Baird was a modern-day warrior who set

a standard that every soldier aspires to achieve.' -


On 22 June 2013, Corporal Cameron Baird was a 2 nd

Commando Regiment Special Forces soldier when he

led his platoon into a known Taliban stronghold to

back-up another Australian unit under heavy fire. In the

pronged firefight, Cameron was mortally wounded.

In 2014, Cameron's bravery and courage under fire

saw him posthumously awarded the 100 th Victoria

Cross, our highest award possible for bravery in the

presence of the enemy. Cameron Baird died how he

lived - at the front, giving it his all, without any

indecision. He will forever be remembered by his

mates and the soldiers he served with in the 2 nd

Commando Regiment.

THE COMMANDO reveals Cameron's life, from

young boy and aspiring AFL player, who only missed

out on being drafted because of injury, to exemplary

soldier and leader. Cameron's story and that of 4RAR

and 2 nd Commando personifies the courage and

character of the men and women who go to war and

will show us the good man we have lost.


Commandos Return

09 -19 September 2018

Commandos Return is on again for 2018 between

9 - 19 September. If you are a financial member of any

Australian Commando Association, or a family member

of a Commando killed in action your eligible to attend.

See the flyer for more information and to register your


Commandos Return is an immersion program

taking in holistic healing of the mind body and soul as

well as immersing you into the experience of the

Timorese people, landscape and its culture. You will

also experience the major battle sights of the

Australian Commandos of WW2, see and hear of the

24-year conflict and eventual independence of the

Indonesian occupation and to see where the Post WW2

Commandos served from 1999 - 2010.

COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018 53

56 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 13 I 2018

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