Anzac Day 2019: Vietnam War through a young Digger’s eyes

THEY are the images of war never before made public: candid snaps of young men behind enemy lines, ­captured by one of their own… raw, intimate and devastating.

These photographs, taken by Vietnam War veteran Allan Beer, himself just 20 years old when he was conscripted into national service, offer a rare behind-the-scenes look at conflict told through a young man’s eyes.

They tell of mateship and youthful optimism, of sons and brothers doing their best. These are not the elite soldiers of today.

Just barely into their adult years, a ragtag group of six men pose outside a Vietnam War camp.

They’re snapped aboard a chopper flying low, taking a break atop a roadside convoy and shirtless watching a naval ship pass by.

There are cheeky shoeshine boys sneaking a cigarette and live performances for a sea of soldiers in green.

The pictures, detailing a group of Australian troop’s moments before their first operation, today made public for the first time will be celebrated at a special exhibition at Howard Smith Wharves as part of an Anzac Day service.

The commemoration coincides with Mr Beer’s 50th anniversary of service and the collection includes photographs of the artist himself, snapped by a friend, looking every bit of his youth, crouched beside a rifle and some ammunition.

Another photo captures him as he wades through mud and water, clutching a gun, while on patrol.

The 70-year-old said that from a young age he was passionate about photography, and carried a camera in his pack that would later capture roughly 300 photos during his time in Vietnam.

“It puts me back there, (the photos) because you can write a book about something, but one photograph can explain a lot to you – more than the written word can,” he said.

“It really captures the moment, and a lot of photos accidentally capture a mood and it’s a bit of a magical thing when you take photos that do that.”

Mr Beer said that he could ­remember every moment behind each picture he captured – and that he ­particularly remembers two ­mischievous Vietnamese shoeshiners.

“These little kids, they were opportunists of course, making a living and they were cheeky little kids, I think that photograph really captured them well,” he said.

He said the photos had been sitting in a box all these years, but would be exhibited for the first time, as he believes younger people are showing a greater interest of what life was like in the Vietnam War.

“I really wish I had of taken more, but of course, there was ­always something going on; there was never a dull moment really,” he said.

“It was all a bit of an adventure; we are all pretty young and it was a bit of an unreal situation.”

Mr Beer told The Courier-Mail that he was lucky to have the opportunity to capture candid shots in a surreal environment.

“A lot of the shots depended on where I was at the time, hanging out on the side of a helicopter – a lot of people never get to experience that, so when they see the photo it is a ‘wow’ moment,” he said.

Sophie Chirgwin, The Courier-Mail April 25, 2019


Opinion – When Australia Punched Above its Weight

ONE hundred years ago in Paris, the victorious allies were negotiating a treaty to formalise the armistice declared on November 11, 1918. The Little Digger, PM Billy Hughes defended our diggers’ sacrifice.

PM Billy Hughes with Aussie Diggers



Thank you Australia for keeping the spirit of Anzac alive

See the video presentation that will be shown on the big screen at the MCG  before the Anzac day clash between Essendon and Collingwood.

RCB Update 2/2019

A big shout out and thanks to our supporters for your generous donations to our RCB Legal Fighting Fund. The result is very encouraging – every little counts and as is said in the song from little things big things grow.

You all know that over 12 years our RCB Review Group’s representations to the Government of the day, via its Defence Department and its Ministers, have been rejected for reasons that we challenged as being false and misleading. We contend that our evidence reveals that a deception has been perpetrated to disguise the true nature of RCB’s deployment, thereby denying the troops access to eligible repatriation and other entitlements. Further, our numerous requests to meet with the Ministers’ decision recommending staff have been ignored until Minister Chester’s infamous 26th November 2018 “clayton’s meeting” in Canberra. See our Update 1/2019

Since then the Minister has greeted our requests for an independent of government judicial inquiry with SILENCE.

We have now contracted with a solicitor/barrister specialising in administrative law to give us a legal opinion on our evidence to: firstly, support an action against the Commonwealth in the matter of its non-recognition of RCB service as warlike; and secondly, support an action against breaches of ministerial, ministerial and defence staff advisors’ codes of ethics and conduct.

We expect to receive the legal opinions very soon and certainly before the Federal election. Those legal opinions will determine our future actions, either in a legal court and/or the court of public opinion. As an example of the latter action read the DFRDB Commutation Issue below and note our request to Minister Chester here

Defence Force Retirement & Death Benefit – Commutation issue – A Summary

 It is worth noting that  Minister Chester’s decision to appoint an independent examination of this matter was decided three days before the ABC TV 7.30 Report publicly “blew the whistle” on  a subject that  DFWA and ADSO have made numerous representations over many years to Governments without success. (Sounds familiar Guys?)

The Minister’s latest decision is an example of the power of the national media to influence the Government especially when an election is at hand.

What needs watching is the Minister’s determination of what is an independent body. If it is not external to Government then the issue remains within the Government’s “loop of self-protection” and cannot be acceptable.

RCB – Where to from Here?

We wait for the legal opinions before deciding further action.

In the meantime we prepare our chosen national media source and our own national social media campaign, and brief certain influential sitting party politicians and election candidates including the cross benchers in both Houses before the Election.

Encourage more donations from our supporters, friends and family: look upon the donation as an investment.

Thanks all for your support, suggestions, comments and donations: they are greatly appreciated. I can assure you all of the outstanding dedication of the RCBRG that remains resolute in it’s determination to pursue our claim beyond the Parliament.

Prior Planning, Persistence, Patience and Perseverance Prevents Poor Performance

Robert Cross
RCB Service 1973, 1974/75, 1982
RCB Group Leader
Date: 10/04/2019

A Tribute to Our Caesar in Khaki and Jungle Green

Today, on behalf of all who at one time or another served under such an outstanding officer, I now write of him, Major General Ron Grey, OA, DSO, (rtd). A soldier we called Caesar and still do with immense pride.  

Our Caesar was God, and his bible was to be read and obeyed. It included commandments on many essentials so critical in war. He was tough and demanding. Failure was not included in his dictionary.  He was never forgiving in regards incidents of poor leadership, and always was his interest in the welfare of his soldiers, as well as an ability to recognise individual weaknesses to be rectified and strengths to be exploited.  Caesar never asked a soldier to do what he as a leader had not already done, and quite often led the way with soldiers who were yet to meet their first challenge. 

He administered military justice with the wisdom and force of Solomon and more often than not it was severe. Always was his objective to achieve a very high standards of battle discipline, be it peace or war, and he did.  He was very much admired by his troops; however, as is the way when enduring physical and mental challenges in a harsh and unforgiving environment, there were a few who had different views. Their service was brief.

From a young Lieutenant in Korea commanding an infantry platoon, then later as Chief Instructor of the Battle Wing at Canungra preparing troops for operations in Vietnam, followed by commanding an infantry battalion in Vietnam and ultimately as a General in charge of Australia’s Field Force.  In all commands, he left huge footprints for all who would follow.  A further challenge confronted him when the government of the day selected him to command Australia’s Federal Police. Yet again he was held in high regard.

So many soldiers who served under him, no matter when or where, still remember him with much admiration and respect. Perhaps such reflection by old warriors from far distant years is the most powerful accolade that any group of veterans could bestow.

It is a long time since we grounded arms and there is a common view within our ranks that before any more leave Planet Earth for distant places, there should be final tribute we can deliver. Thus a token of our recognition is enclosed below to remind the old bxxxxxrd of our high regard for him as a mentor, disciplinarian, comrade in arms, and commander who was, is, and always be our Caesar.

Hail Caesar

George Mansford

                             Caesar Still Lives 

                                             Major General R.A. Grey AO, DSO                       

                            A salute from all his centurions, living and dead

Find me the soldier who speaks of Caesar gone
Take his name, for he is so wrong
In dreams we follow him again into the fog of war, night or day
Look and you see him here, there, and everywhere, leading the way

Hear his sharp spurs to counter fear and capture pride
Laughter and camaraderie at camp fires with centurions by his side
See his torch of honour, love of country and duty burning bright 
A flame in our column forever and a day, and always in sight

Listen to the tramp of many willing feet marching as one
His stirring spirit going forward to the rhythmic beat of our drums  When the bugle calls, he is there as our flag’s raised high
His legions, eager for life, yet when duty calls, ready to die

Have no doubts, our beloved Caesar will always be there
Mid the ranks of today’s warriors standing fast and soon to dare
Now go find me the soldier who says Caesar has gone
Take his name, for he is so, so wrong

                      Hail Caesar

GM-©Cairns NQ February 2019

Anzacs ‘killers’, British arrival ‘an invasion’, uni students told

Students at Murdoch University are being taught that the Anzacs who fought at Gallipoli were “killers”, that the British arrival in Australia in 1788 was an “invasion”, and that asylum-seekers on Manus Island and Nauru are “prisoners”.

A lecturer in Australian history­ at Murdoch, Dean Aszkie­lowicz, told School of Arts students earlier this month that many of the young people who attend annual Anzac Day services in Gallipoli were “drunk”. In an audio recording ­obtained by The Australian, he also described Anzac Day as a “cliche” that would diminish in popularity.

Dr Aszkielowicz declined to comment yesterday. The Aust­ralian has been told some of the students in the course are concerned about an apparent left-wing bias among academics and that they are being given only one side of the argument about Australian history and culture.

Murdoch University was standing by its academics last night amid allegations of left-wing bias in their teaching, and criticisms that the comments about the Anzacs were “insulting” to fallen soldiers.

Federal Liberal MP and former SAS commander Andrew Hastie said Australians should be free to question assumptions around Anzac Day but should be careful about attacking or repudiating what it stood for. He also questioned the teaching in Australian universities. “Humanities students would be better off building a home library based on the Western canon, rather than listening to an overpaid radical malign our war dead,” he said.

Murdoch University Challenges our Future

DFWA President Kel Ryan in a letter to the Australian Newspaper today said, “I wonder if Dr Dean Aszkie­lowicz from Murdoch University ever plays back and listens to his lectures. Describing those who fought at Gallipoli as “killers” in terms that were hesitant, contradictory and replete with clichés would not get a “Pass” in a Year 12 history essay is clear evidence that he does not. To suggest that most of the youth who attend the Dawn Service at Gallipoli “are drunk” and blindly following the ‘warrior myth’ which is ‘fuelled’ by the military highlights his lack of understanding of the place of ANZAC Day in the social fabric of the nation. To ridicule is easy but to proffer considered and well-articulated views free of superficial platitudes is obviously a challenge for Dr Aszkielowicz.   More power to those students who question this lecturer and his rationale and the absence of clear and considered understanding of this important chapter of the nation’s history.”

The RARA President Michael von Berg in endorsing the DFWA’s letter added, “The Royal Australian Regiment Association is disgusted in the quotes attributed to Dr. Dean Aszkie­lowicz from Murdoch University that our brave ANZAC’s were “killers” and that ANZAC Day is “clichéd”. Dr. Aszkielowicz is doing his students a disservice in his attempts to rewrite or scrub out history in presenting an inaccurate view of our proud ANZAC past to promote his simple-minded, ideologically driven, political left point of view. It’s not what we expect from those responsible to teach history, not debase or destroy it for self-interest purposes.”

A Salute to the Space Age Florence Nightingales

I decided to let all of you take a rest from my cluttering scribbles and thus moved to into hospital for a short stay of five weeks, before I managed to escape via a tunnel I had dug with a stolen spoon. It was a good time to reflect on all those yesterday’s and how fortunate I was to have been born is such a lucky country as ours.

Mid the sick,  be they old and young and from all walks of life, there was always the grin, the humour  and respect for each other and often a humorous tale from yesterday. Above all was the highest regard and admiration we had for the staff, from the youngest of  the cleaners to the seniors within the medical profession.   Many of the teams were nurses, always at the front line, so to speak. They were constantly exposed to an environment of pain and suffering. Often was their soothing reassurance to someone in fear of the unknown.

Thus this short  note below was sent to their office, hopefully to be seen by all of them.

                                        THANK YOU

“It is close to my escape and it would be very remiss of me not to thank all of you for your tireless dedication and valued assistance in my rehabilitation.

There were so many wonderful qualities which all of you demonstrated in the course of your duties; they included tolerance, patience, cheerfulness, sense of purpose and many more.

The challenges you set were so appropriate, and in a short time the achievement of personal goals became addictive.

All of you deserve recognition for recovering those from illness and injuries then preparing health, mind and confidence for each and every patient’s tomorrows.

For my experience , all I can say is thank you.

My immense respect and admiration to each and every one of you.”

George Mansford – March 2019
Prisoner, Cell 6, Level 2


“The magic lantern still burns bright”

          Nightingales so busy in towns and the outback far away
Where “I need help” is a common plea heard every day
Blood tests, sutures and injections are a few of many tasks
Always a reassuring smile when a patient asks

If you whirred back in time to a war long ago
You would find a weary angel at Balaclava, nursing to and fro
Guided by a flickering lantern in dark crowded tents for sick and dying Young and old, stricken by wounds, fever, misery, pain and heavy sighing

I know naught of Florence’s dreams for all those tomorrows
Yet history records her crusades to counter pain and sorrow
Always was the pride of her noble profession no matter when or where
She became a bible of discipline, team work, respect and care

New deeds are added to her path of never ending footprints every day
She endured with strong heart and clear sense of purpose in many ways Sleep sound, Florence;  those who follow will use your true compass well
In today’s army of mercy, your lamp burns bright for disciples with tales to tell

“Space age nurses standing tall have answered the call”

George Mansford – March 2019

St Patrick’s Day Greetings

To all our Irish friends a Happy St Patrick’s Day

International Women’s Day – Recognising Women in war time

TODAY as we celebrate International Women’s Day and recognise the achievements of all women, we pay a special thanks to those who have supported and served our country abroad and on the home front.

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Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester acknowledged the women who have served and supported Australia in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations for more than a century.
“In times of uncertainty during the First World War women stepped into roles to support those fighting on the front line by fundraising and producing packs to send to them, as well as providing medical and nursing support,” Mr Chester said.
“The Second World War saw the expansion of these roles so that women were no longer confined to nursing or voluntary positions and had the opportunity to enlist in the three service arms.
“By 1944, close to 50,000 women were serving in the military and thousands more had joined the war effort in a civilian capacity through organisations such as the Australian Women’s Land Army.
“Since then the roles available to women have expanded further and women can now apply for every position in the Australian Defence Force. For those who have served Australia, past and present, thank you for your service.”
In honour of their service and sacrifice, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has developed a radio series to highlight the enormous contribution that women have made.
“I encourage all Australians to listen out for the Women in War series on radio networks across Australia, which tells the untold stories of the vital roles played by women during wartime,” Mr Chester said.
Listen to the series on the Anzac Portal.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Opinion – Respecting National Sensitivities

The decision to move this year’s Villers-Bretonneux Anzac Day commemorations in northern France from dawn to mid morning caused outrage. PM Scott Morrison has since reversed this decision but was that the right thing to do?