“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice, lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the Earth.” William Faulkner, 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature.
“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. ” (Old African saying)
A Story in Seven Parts. (This provides an introduction and background to the Blog, which follows below on a daily basis [since February 2015]. Scroll down to ‘today’s date’.)
Once upon a time there was a 1AR Assn Members’ Forum. This was a page on the Assn’s website and members used it to keep in touch and discuss matters relevant to the Assn. Suddenly the Forum was closed. It was explained that it was costing members too much to keep operating. When it was discovered that this was not the case (ie. there was no cost to the Assn), the Forum was reopened.
The topic which was being discussed on the Forum when it was closed was a request for information about the history of the Centurion held by the Cairns Arty and Tank Museum. This led to a discovery that all the log books for the Centurions at Puckapunyal had mysteriously disappeared from the Tank Museum.
After the Forum was reopened, discussion on the topic continued. Suddenly the Forum was closed again. A number of reasons were given for the closure, all of which turned out to be untrue. One of them was that a post or posts on the Forum had brought the Assn into discredit. No-one was prepared to say what the post was or who had posted it. Misconduct by members was publicly announced as the reason for the closure.
One member lodged a grievance as provided for under the Constitution. He felt that members should be informed as to what their misconduct was and be given the opportunity to defend themselves. He also started a blog to provide a means for open and transparent discussion of RAAC matters.
While the grievance process was underway, members were informed that the Assn’s Constitution had to be changed. This was duly done, disciplinary provisions being extensively strengthened. The member who had submitted the grievance was now found to be guilty of misconduct under the new Constitution. He was expelled from the Assn and his grievance went unheard.
Service in the military, no matter what capacity, inculcates a commitment to doing ‘the right thing’. This became obvious when a group of members banded together to lodge a grievance to protest at the lack of natural justice provided to the member who had been expelled. While preparing this they noticed that actions taken against the member were not in accord with the Assn’s Constitution.
Delving into this more deeply, they discovered that the process required to change the Constitution had not been followed. Furthermore, the reasons given to members for having to change it were not correct. The group sought advice from Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV), the authority for associations incorporated in that State. The outcome was that the Constitution was declared to be invalid, as were actions taken on the basis of its provisions.
The group of members who had brought about this outcome, asked for an apology from those who had misled members as to the reasons for changing the Constitution. This was not forthcoming. Not long after, the President and other committee members resigned. The new President and Committee spent $960 of members’ funds to get an independent legal opinion re the Constitution.
The findings confirmed the view of CAV that the Constitution was invalid. Furthermore, any member adversely affected by it was entitled to take action against the Association. The member who had been expelled was reinstated, together with his Life Membership. He agreed not to seek an apology, so as to avoid causing any divisiveness in the association.
The new C’tee examined the original Constitution and found valid reasons for changing it, eg. the CAV’s default ‘Model Rules’ are ok for a State based association, but have limitations as far as a national organization is concerned. A proposed draft was sent to members. The group which had taken action against the now invalid constitution saw that the required process was still not being adopted (by oversight).
Bringing this to the attention of the C’tee stirred up something of a hornets’ nest among some members of the Assn. Social media went into a frenzy, accusing ‘constitutionalists’ of forcing younger members to leave the association because they had become fed up with “rules and BS” which mean nothing to them.
This is a recognized situation within many ex-service organizations. At least one PhD thesis is being compiled on the subject of maintaining the interest of younger members. The C’tee have been put in touch with the author. As one member of the ‘constitutionalists’ has stated, however, the Constitution is the members’ contract with their association. It must be got right, both for the members’ and Association’s sake. There is no other option. Those donating their time and energy to help the C’tee ensure the Constitution is a valid one, should be thanked, not persecuted, by the wider membership.
The C’tee decided to withdraw what would’ve been an illegal constitution if the draft had been approved by members. A new draft constitution was prepared by the members group (who invested immense time and energy in the matter), incorporating the changes desired by the C’tee, but based on the CAV Model Rules. (It seems that the earlier draft may have been based on the NSW Department of Fair Trading Rules, which are different to those required of an association incorporated in Victoria).
The Assn AGM was held on 8 July 2017. It augured well for the Assn that there are a number of members who are prepared to stand for the vacant C’tee positions. There was hope that a valid and well thought through Constitution would soon be able to be presented to members for approval.
A powerful ‘clique’ gathered at the AGM, intent on installing ‘their men’ in a number of C’tee positions. They addressed the AGM, venting their spleens … the person who had been expelled and reinstated, was described as a bully and a coward, “a bad apple who needs to be cut out”. The clique’s candidate for President referred to the need to clear out “disruptive” elements in his pre-election speech. Once a new Constitution was finalised, the findings of the original disciplinary hearing would simply be enforced again. The ‘clique’ didn’t attend the 1AR Birthday Dinner on the evening of the AGM … they gathered instead at a local hotel. The retiring Vice President expressed his disgust at this on social media
It has subsequently been discovered that considerable irregularities occurred in the conduct of the AGM: in particular, there were enormous discrepancies with proxy voting; the numbers of votes stated in the AGM Minutes were 30% more than figures given at the meeting to those attending; membership records were inaccurate and wrongly disallowed at least one member from voting; a person addressed the meeting, described as a “financial Affiliate Member”, but there is no provision for affiliate members in the Constitution; another ‘member’ addressed the meeting, but there is no mention of him in the list of those attending; and the financial statement was not only not certified by the C’tee as being true and correct, but also it failed to encompass the whole FY and did not disclose reasons for the expenditure of funds.
All irregularities with respect to the Constitution were brought to the attention of the C’tee, however, no response was received. Six weeks after his election, the Treasurer resigned, stating that “when dealing with members’ monies on a daily basis it has to be within the rules, be open, be accountable and be transparent and most of all be honest and be sure there is some form of trail to follow”. (There had been three previous Treasurers in the past 12 months.)
It is to be hoped that governance provisions as required by law can be enacted so that the Assn will be able to move ahead with its good work looking after former and serving members of 1 Armd Regt.
Much of the new (2017) C’tee’s time was taken up with governance matters which had been long in the making. A firm of accountants were appointed to set up an accounting system to better enable the Assn to manage its financial transactions. Interestingly, as a part of this, advice was given to the C’tee that my donations of royalties from my book, made for the purpose of “assisting the Association’s endeavours” (stated publicly in the Author’s Note), had “created a constructive obligation in respect to the donated funds”.
Supposedly this meant that the funds could only be used as I stipulated. Of course, nothing was further from the truth … which was proven by the fact that I had no knowledge of the use of the funds to purchase either a TV set for D Squadron in South Australia, nor building materials for the Mick Rainey MM Club. Both purposes I fully supported. Nevertheless, a firm of lawyers was employed to tell me not to make any further donations. I asked what I had to do to make an acceptable donation, but received no response.
The Minutes of the 2018 AGM stated that “… any future donations would be accepted without conditions”. The present C’tee was asked to consider the question: “Could the C’tee please explain why a donation made “to assist the Association’s endeavours”, (i) is not considered a donation made ‘without conditions’; and (ii) what wording does a donor have to use to meet this requirement? No response has been received.
Despite all the above, the financial status of the Assn has been moved onto a sound basis with stringent controls. This is a major step forward. The fact that the Defence Fraud and Investigation Unit conducted an investigation might have been an additional spur to this end. [The investigation related to $25,000 in donations being made to 1 Armd Regt from Rheinmetall. These payments were ‘masked’ by being transferred through the 1 AR Assn accounts. This ‘routing’ is possibly explained by the fact that such ‘donations’ were in complete breach of Defence regulations; Rheinmetall being a contender for a major Defence contract at the time. The 1AR Assn C’tee responded by saying that the Assn was bound by Victorian Law, not Defence regulations. [After submissions by members, the matter was investigated by the Defence Force Ombudsman and procedures within Defence amended as a result.]
The other step required was that of putting in place a valid and relevant Constitution. The hard work of a group of dedicated members, especially Ron Baikie and Geoff Stelmach, paid dividends. The draft Constitution prepared by them, with some amendments, was approved by members at the 2018 AGM.
One of the amendments inserted by the then C’tee was that which stated that just because you served in 1 Armd Regt, this no longer made you eligible to be a member of the 1AR Assn. Previously you were automatically eligible and would only cease to be a member if you were to be in breach of disciplinary provisions. Overnight, the C’tee has given itself the power of veto on their own terms. Now, if you apply to join (or renew your membership) and the C’tee does not consider you ‘suitable’, then your application is not approved. There is no definition as what “suitable” means in the eyes of the C’tee.
Interestingly, I was not able to attend the AGM for health reasons. I explained this to those who demanded on-line, that I attend. Immediately following the AWM, a series of photos appeared on the 1AR Past & Present FB page of a placemat with my name on it at various places within the AGM venue, coupled with the question: “Where is he?”. I complained to the new C’tee. The President responded to say that the C’tee could not do anything with respect to inappropriate behaviour on the FB page outside their control.
At its second C’tee meeting the following policy was adopted: “Inappropriate behaviour on a private blog or a face book page with privacy settings, where access rights cannot be controlled or influenced by the association, may result in the appointment of an association Disciplinary SubCommittee to examine and report on the behaviour.
I assume that the behaviour described above would be considered to be ‘inappropriate’. So it seems that the two 1AR Assn members behind the post, escape a review by a Disciplinary Sub-Committee (and I miss out on receiving an apology). Was it not ever thus?
The story continues … The final Constitution approved by the then C’tee differed from that which the group of members had drafted. One point of difference was that a clause was inserted which gave the C’tee the right to refuse someone’s application for membership, without telling them why and without giving them any right of appeal. These are the sort of powers that back the governance of a totalitarian regime. A number of members raised objections to this, but their protests were ignored.
The C’tee with whom the group of members had been working to draft the new Constitution had included a provision in the Constitution for ‘existing’ Life Memberships to be continued. The draft sent to members made this very clear. (Background here is that when Life Memberships were originally awarded, there was no provision in the Constitution for this to be done. The revised Constitution included such provision.)
Although I was a Life Member, I received a request to pay membership fees. I did so, thinking that it would be somewhat arrogant of me to say that as a Life Member, I’m not required to do so. Next, I’m advised that as I was deemed to have criticised the C’tee (with my suggestions re continual improvement of due process), I was therefore deemed not to support the Purposes of the Assn as set out in the Constitution.
As a result, my membership would not be renewed. (The basis for and against the supposed criticisms are detailed in Blog posts for March 2019.) Furthermore, I was advised that I would not be entitled to appeal this decision (which, for a disciplinary offence by a member whose m’ship was current, would be granted and heard by a General Meeting of members.)
I said “but I’m a Life Member, I was only applying for membership renewal on a voluntary basis”. Surprisingly, I was told that all Life Memberships had been scrapped, (ie. the provision continuing Life Memberships mentioned above, was deleted from the Constitution by the C’tee, before a vote was taken for approval). I asked why the decision to continue Life Memberships was overturned and why weren’t members informed of this? I have not received a response to either question.
Nevertheless, as the Constitution provides for a Life Member to do, I’ve appealed the decision to revoke my membership. What will the next chapter bring, I wonder?
In a letter dated 2 August 2019, the President 1AR Assn advised me that the reason that the C’tee did not notice that the provision for existing Life Memberships to be continued had been removed from the draft of the Constitution considered at the AGM, was an “oversight” which the Association “failed to detect”. As a result, resolutions for the continuance of each former life member’s membership are to be considered at the AGM on 12 October 2019. Each resolution must be approved by three quarters of the members voting, whether in person or by proxy. I was not allowed to vote.
My Life Membership was not renewed. I asked to see the proposal that was put to members with respect to me and the Minutes of the AGM … neither was allowed.
Part 7: The Ideal World
In such a world there would be nothing for Armouredadvocates to have to draw attention to.
This would mean:
The memorial plaques provided by DVA for those who DOW would include reference to Mentioned in Dispatches (MiD) when this award had been received.
There would be two tank squadrons in the Plan Beersheba ‘Ready’ brigade (to facilitate the formation of an adequate number of battlegroups).
Members of the RAAC who participated in Operation Hammersley would be entitled to the RVN Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation.
Armoured crewmen would be entitled to wear a ‘silver’ Army Combat Badge (or other such badge) to acknowledge the unique dangers they face in combat.
2/14 QMI (ACR) would be equipped with a full squadron of tanks and all ACRs, SoA, and RTC, would have access to an adequate repair pool.
No-one on RAAC or related personal social media would use personal insults, derogatory language, or intimidation, in an attempt to stifle free and open discussion.
The RAAC corporation would stand up and advocate for issues which adversely affect the RAAC, even if this is contrary to Defence’s ‘official’ position.
Serving RAAC personnel would be issued with black berets and plumes at public expense.
All information panels re RAAC exhibits in the Vietnam Gallery at the AWM and audio-visual narratives would be correct
Those personnel who do not retire as SNCO or above, would be able to request a miniature ACB to be provided to them at public expense … should they have an occasion in which they need to wear it.
First Australians who defended their families, their land and their possessions against those who endeavoured to colonise Australia by force, would be commemorated by the AWM.
ANZAC Day services would commemorate the First Australians who lost their lives defending their families, land and possessions, on the same basis as all other Australians who have died defending their nation.
Wars in which Australia participated would no longer be defined by the casualty figures at their end, but references to them (including school text books) would acknowledge that casualties among veterans and their families continue to mount, with more wounds becoming apparent and more deaths occurring every day.
A system of Operational Analysis (OA) would be introduced which would ensure that the failure to quickly identify, report, and learn from operational experience, which happened in Vietnam, would never be repeated.
Donations would be able to be made to the 1AR Assn for the C’tee to utilise ”to assist the Association’s endeavours” (and not be rejected because a perceived obligation would be created).
1AR Assn would have valid By-Laws approved by members which would include the procedures to be followed by 1 AR Assn members/C’tee when members of the Assn and serving/former members of 1AR receive awards for their endeavours.
The above By-Laws would also include the procedures to be followed by 1AR Assn members/C’tee when members of the Assn and serving/former members of 1AR die.
The above By-Laws would also include the procedures to be followed when 1AR Assn members are in need of assistance; including how to make this known to the 1AR Assn.
ADF and DVA medical procedures would take account of the unique stress factors associated with operating AFVs in combat (and in training) when assessing the mental health of serving and former RAAC personnel.
RAAC personnel would be able to wear an AFV crewman’s badge following initial qualification as an AFV crewman and until no longer qualified.
ADF personnel would be able to wear dress embellishments which indicated the number of times they had been WIA and deployed on active service in a particular conflict.
The Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) to to be introduced under LAND 400 Phase 3 would be operated by the RAAC.
Oral history interviews would be conducted with those who have crewed the different AFVs used by the Australian Army, so that their experience might be recorded before they all pass away (and only the AFVs are left).
The submission made by the RAAC Corporation (when asked by Defence if they supported my submission to Minister for the Coral-Balmoral battlehonour to be emblazoned on the 1 Armd Regt Standard) would be made available to those who may seek to view it (given that the Corporation state that no prior submissions were looked at by them).
The reason that an application for membership of the 1AR Assn is denied by the C’tee must be made known to the applicant and members; the applicant must have the right of appeal.
All RAAC ARES units would be equipped with a suitable crew operated vehicle (such as Hawkei) and have roles which are in keeping with the conduct of mobile warfare.
The RAAC tank fleet would be right sized’ from 59 to the 90+ that Army state is the minimum number to equip and support three dispersed tank squadrons. (It has been reported that project LAND 907 Phase 2 incorporates an additional 29 Abrams, to bring the tank fleet to 88; with what seems to be a ‘trade-off’ in terms of two tanks for increased simulators, including one for troop tactical training.)
2/14 QMI (ACR) would be equipped with a full squadron of tanks and all ACRs, SoA, and RTC, would have access to an adequate repair pool. (See above.)
The minutes of RAAC Corporation AGMs would be made available to the members of the associations who make up the Corporation and pay for the privilege. (The 1AR Assn C’tee is making available an ‘extract’ of the Minutes that is thought to be relevant to members.)
All RAAC personnel who serve as PMV-M (Bushmasters) crew commanders would be trained and certified to a level of competency approved by the School of Armour. (The need for appropriate training has been acknowledged, however, it is yet to be formalised via the SOA.)
The Purposes of the 1AR Assn would include efforts to care for those less fortunate (in addition to simply promoting ‘camaraderie’) and this goal would be enacted by the C’tee. (The desirability of the goal has been acknowledged, but is yet to be articulated in practical terms.)
The identity of the person who holds the logbooks for the Centurions at Puckapunyal would be known, as would the reason for the logbooks not being in Tank Museum where they belong. (It is now known that Mr M Cecil, a former employee of the AWM, has or has had access to, at least one of the missing logbooks. Footnote 55, p121, Vol1 , ‘Canister1 On! FIRE!’ refers. (Mr Cecil initially issued a denial, however, subsequently admitted that he once transcribed info from the logbook. He hasn’t volunteered where the logbook was at the time.)
Those who were wounded in action would no longer be referred to as being ‘injured’. (Acceptance of this is becoming much more widespread, however, it is still far from universal.)
The 1AR Assn would operate in complete openness, transparency and honesty, particularly as far as governance decisions are concerned. (Minutes of C’tee meetings are now made available to members, however, not all decisions are open and transparent.)
Serving members of the RAAC would carry into combat a personal weapon which provided effective rapid and hard hitting firepower. (A carbine is now available for a tank crewman/commander to use should he have reason to leave the tank and are also provided for ASLAV crew members.)
RAAC related technology exhibits at the AWM would not focus entirely on the technical aspects of the vehicles/equipment, but also would incorporate the human dimension, ie. the roles of (and stress associated with) the crew operating AFVs in combat. (The Director of the AWM, Dr Nelson, advises that he has adopted this policy, ie. he “continually reminds AWM staff that it is the experiences of those operating the equipment, rather than the machines themselves, which are of most importance”.
Crossed off the List:
The RAAC Corporation has amended its website to correctly describe the vehicles operated by the RAAC.
The AWM has resolved the conflict between its different website references to the number of crew that operated its Japanese Ha Go tank.
The Ombudsman has undertaken a review of the perceived conflict of interest created when Rheinmetall ‘routed’ $25,000 through the 1AR Assn accounts to avoid scrutiny, at the same time as tendering for a $5b Defence contract. Procedures within Defence have been amended as a result
The 1AR Assn have had a coffin drape made (ie. a large Regimental flag) and loan/hire this to NOK for use at funerals.
Serving members of B Sqn 3/4 Cav are eligible to wear the UCG insignia for Coral-Balmoral.
Those former 1AR members who desire to do so, can use a Regimental flag as a drape for their coffin.
The 1AR Assn now has a valid Constitution approved by members
The 1AR Assn Constitution is now available to be viewed by members on the Assn’s website.
The history of 1 Armd Regt has been updated on the 1AR website to reflect its present role (what a pity the RAAC Corporation has not followed suit).
2/14 QMI (ACR) would operate from a base which provides suitable housing and schooling for families (as well as good access to training areas). There is to be no move to Central Queensland (… for now?)
Minutes of the last 1AR AGM were published without any defamatory material.
Minutes of 1AR Assn C’tee meetings are now being made available to members.
Members of the RAAC who participated in the Battles of Coral-Balmoral are now entitled to the Unit Citation for Gallantry (with Federation Star)..
Army Combat Badges are now provided to the NOK of those who have been killed in action.
The C-B Battlehonour has been emblazoned on the 1 AR Standard
Bien Hoa, Hat Dich and Binh Ba battlehonours have been emblazoned on the 3 Cav Guidon
The dates shown on the Vietnam Theatre Honour emblazoned on the 1AR Standard have been corrected.
The insensitive (made in China) ‘snow dome’ modeled on the Centurion tank in the grounds of the AWM (in which crew were WIA), has been removed from sale at the AWM
The LAND 400 Phase 2 timetable is on track, despite the anticipated delays associated with a change in the Minister for Defence. (This means that the capability gap that would have resulted from a delay in the replacement of the ASLAV, has been avoided.)
1 Troop A Squadron 4/19 PWLH has been acknowledged as the first RAAC unit to be deployed in action (and is the recipient of the RVN Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation), rather than being designated ‘1 APC Troop (A Sqn, 4th/19th PWLH)’, the Defence proposal advocated by the RAAC Corporation.
Personnel subjected to mine incidents and the like, in which blast effects may have caused occult wounds (ie. invisible at the time), will now have the incident recorded and be subject to follow-up medicals.
A Centurion tank is now back on display at the AWM.
The RSL has abandoned its proposal to sign an MOU with the Communist Party of Vietnam, while the human rights of former SVN Armed Forces members (our Allies) continue to be violated.
DVA withdrew the lapel pin comprised of crossed Australian and Socialist Republic of Vietnam flags which the RAAC Corporation advocated be worn at the Coral-Balmoral Commemoration.
The Army has abandoned its policy banning the wearing of berets.
The Minister for Defence considered an account in a book by a Vietnam veteran, with a ‘glowing’ Foreword by a serving senior officer … if true, the incident amounted to premeditated murder. The investigation found that it was ’embellishment’ by the author. The Minister advised that Army training standards had been reviewed to ensure that such actions would be recognised for what they are and not be seemingly ‘condoned’ in the future.
Attention is now given (as a matter of course) to ensuring that the health of RAAC crewmen is not affected by the transmissions of radios and other electronic equipment in their AFVs.
The National Archives/AWM have acknowledged that a mistake made, for example in an After Action Report, CAN be brought to the attention of those who refer to the original documents in order to better understand what happened.
An RAAC veteran has received just and compassionate treatment from the Federal Court, overruling the Immigration Minister. (What a pity justice and compassion were not to be found more widely from within RAAC ESO ranks.)
DVA has advised aged care providers of the assistance that they can provide for the conduct of Anzac Day Services for those who are mobility impaired.
The blog continues below, the story remains unfinished. ‘Doing the Right Thing VII’ lists daily Blog posts from 1 January 2021. Earlier day by day posts follow after that (through to February 2015).
Should anyone see something which is incorrect in any Blog post, please inform me so that I can immediately correct the information and apologise to anyone inadvertently affected. (See example Corrections at the Blog posts for 3 June 2019 and 26 January 2019.)
NB 1. Advertisements. I’m sorry … I had no idea about the advertisements that have been incorporated into my posts (that some readers have experienced). I guess this is all about the number of readers … when the number increases, so there is commercial value in incorporating ads. Paradoxically, it seems this has also made it more difficult to access the Blog. (I wouldn’t dare think that a hacker had been tasked to ‘close me down’.)
Thank goodness! Just place armouredadvocates.wordpress.com in the top search bar of Google and it should all be ok. (Fingers crossed.) I should mention that I have no association whatsoever with the products advertised, indeed I can’t see the ads myself.
NB 2. Index. A lot of readers have said how good it would be to have an index of blog posts on a subject by subject basis. This was suggested to me right at the start of the Blog, but I foolishly thought that the Blog would have a very limited life and it wouldn’t be worth it. I’ve realised for some time, how useful it would be … and will do something accordingly. (Latest): The Index is being compiled daily. That from 16 March 2020 to 31 December 2020 can be found at the end of Doing the Right Thing VI. That from 1 January 2021 follows the last post of Doing the Right Thing VII.
NB 3. Email Contact. Should anyone wish to provide feedback by email, the address is email@example.com
3 March 2021
The Australian War Memorial Part 2
Following on from 1 March 2021 …
My letter was published yesterday. It was one of six related to Dr Wareham’s article objecting to the redevelopment of the AWM. Of course, it was not the redevelopment that was the subject of my letter, but the fact that she was also objecting to the AWM honouring those who have fought on active service, rather than ‘only’ those who have died.
None of the other letter writers referred to the subject I wrote about, they all agreed that the AWM redevelopment should not go ahead. What arguments did they present?
The AWM will become:
A glorification of war;
A Disneyland which glorifies war … [something] which would fill the pockets of the “war monger” imagery;
A memorial to war and militarism:
A celebration of war;
A parade … which amounts to more and more sophisticated machines for killing humans and other living species.
These remarks obviously reflect a particular viewpoint. Where does the rational assessment sit?
The AWM has had a very comprehensive and detailed Heritage Plan for many years; intended to ensure that nothing is done to which might compromise heritage values. I’ve put it to opponents of the redevelopment before … specify exactly how what is planned will compromise the Heritage Plan. There has been no response.
2 March 2021
Army’s Professional Military Education hub has called for articles related to leadership: The Cove <firstname.lastname@example.org>
My input is copied below, but I’m sure that there will much much better examples on which those going forward should base their outlook.
Understanding Yourself and Others as a Leader.
I’ve read all the prescribed texts on leadership (as well as a few others), but often found that theoretical analyses were ‘dry’ and failed to fully convey the things I wanted to learn. I hope that the following personal anecdotes might provide an alternative thesis. (I apologise for the ‘I’ words, but they’re hard to avoid in a personal account.)
1. Take Responsibility. “Whose work is this?”, the Director said loudly, as he came into the work area from his office,waving the document. I knew what it was … a submission that we’d been putting together for some time. I replied: “If it’s good then it’s the work of my team; if it’s not, then it’s my responsibility”.
There was a pause. “It’s very good”, he said. My team were pleased not only about the response to their work, but the fact that I was prepared to take responsibility on their behalf, if something had gone wrong.
2. Be Prepared to Explain. It was a barrack room inspection at 1st Armoured Regiment’s (then) Kapyong Barracks … usually the troopers just accepted the fact that it was an inspection. A national serviceman, however, decided to ask what the point of it all was.
I explained that he “was being trained to be a member of a tank crew soon to be deployed in action. If he was wounded, someone else would have to take his place. That person would expect to know exactly where to find things such as the ‘tool removing jammed cartridge case’. Instilling order into everyone in terms of layout was important to success in battle”. He understood completely. The explanation was appreciated and from then on, he took a supportive view in terms of the reasoning behind daily routines.
3. Don’t Take the Easy Way Out. Doing sentry on a tank in an ambush on active service requires everyone to follow drills exactly. I read an oral history interview recorded with a tank crewman after Vietnam. He said that he wanted to get to another troop because I was too strict. Any relaxation of standards, however, would have placed everyone at risk. We had to take responsibility for each other and this was appreciated, far and away, by the majority. The tenet of following procedures applied also as far as Rules of Engagement (ROE) were concerned.
We had to positively identify enemy before we engaged. In essence, this meant that they had to be carrying weapons. One night we were in an ambush. Using a first-generation night vision device, the sentry saw four legs … two followed by another two. Upper bodies were obscured. Whoever they were, they were breaking the curfew. There might have been some who would have engaged on this basis.
Breaking the curfew did not mean that they were enemy, however (possibly farmers returning late from their fields). After ‘standing to’, I counted down over the radio and all tanks switched on their searchlights. There was no need to give the order to fire. Illuminated was the biggest buck deer anyone had ever seen. The four legs were explained.
4. Be Honest with Those Below and Those Above. I was selected to be a candidate to be the ADC to the Governor-General. At the formal dinner with the other candidates, I was seated next to the GG. Soon after, I turned to him and said: “Your Excellency, I have a confession to make!”. The whole table went quiet. The GG: “and what’s that?”. I said that I had looked him up in Who’s Who so that I would have something to talk about. “And what did you find out?” he said. ‘That you had written a book entitled the Private Man’, this seems to be a paradox for someone in such a public position.” “Well … let me tell you about that!” (The others at the table went back to talking among themselves.) The GG must have welcomed those who were prepared to speak openly and honestly, as I got the job.
5. Maintain Your Self-Respect. I took leave without pay from the Army for a period and was employed by an insurance company as a District Sales Manager. I didn’t know about the ‘Baby Names’ (nor other things) that were wide-spread throughout the industry. To explain, some of those who worked within the Classified’s sections of newspapers were paid by insurance agencies to provide the names and addresses of the people placing advertisements. This allowed agents to call on those expecting babies or planning weddings and meet them when they were most vulnerable.
I later went before a promotion board and was asked why I came back into the Army. “To keep my self-respect!”, I said (and I got promoted!)
The above are but a few of the principles on which future leaders can draw as they go forward. I suggest that everyone must think in terms of the principles that are relevant to them at their stage in their career … not all apply to everyone at all times (but most do).
Postscript: I’ve carefully side-stepped the lessons of poor leadership which I could so easily have included.
1 March 2021
The Australian War Memorial
The following quotes were contained in an article in today’s Canberra Times by Dr Sue Wareham, President of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War.
“The AWM’s corporate plan for 2020-24 states that the institution’s purpose is “to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war or on operational service, and those who have served our nation in times of conflict”. The words in italics, to include all those who have fought, appear to have been unilaterally tacked on by the AWM Council, disregarding the significant distinction between dying and not dying. They are a stark departure from the relevant words in the 1980 Australian War Memorial Act, which refers to a national memorial to Australians “who have died on, or as a result of, active service”.
Where once we commemorated family members and others who died in Australia’s wars, we will now honour all those who fight and have fought: past and present, dead or alive, disabled by their service or fighting fit.”
I’ve responded in a letter to the Canberra Times:
“Dr Wareham criticises the AWM (Canberra Times, 27 Feb 21) for honouring not only those who have died fighting for their country, but also those who have returned from active service, quite possibly wounded. How can this be?
Is it not right that we as a Nation commemorate honour ALL those who have fought on our behalf, many of whom carry the scars (physical and mental) of their service. Surely, those prepared to sacrifice themselves on our behalf, deserve no less.
I can only imagine that Dr Wareham has no close associates who have been deployed on active service on her behalf and (thankfully) have returned. If she had, surely, she would want to honour them.”
Dr Wareham went on to say:
We will gaze in awe at the machinery of warfare, the tanks and fighter planes that will occupy most of the additional 24,000 square metres, and pretend that we understand war better for it.
It’s relevant that the AWM has undertaken to place greater emphasis on those who crewed tanks etc, highlighting the challenges that confronted them, than has been the case in the past
28 February 2021
The RAAC Family
It shouldn’t just be the Salvos….
Isn’t this great to see:
“Rod Westgarth organized 22 Christmas hampers to be delivered to worthy recipients last December and will back up again this year. Rod Westgarth and David Finlayson organized a large number of gift vouchers that were distributed amongst our membership during the lockdown period. The rebirth of our website thanks to the sterling work of Secretary Peter Axton has been outstanding. It can be viewed at raacavic.weebly.com
One has to imagine that the RAACA (VIC) doesn’t support the motion passed by the RAAC Corporation a couple of years ago to the effect that the Corporation and its member associations didn’t have the resources to provide assistance to individuals in need and would refer any to the RSL. The approach above also differs from that of the 1AR Assn, a C’tee member of which stated to the effect that: ‘We’re only here to have a few beers and swap stories’.
Let’s hope that the RAAC Corporation sees worth in the example of the RAACA (VIC) and takes the lead in introducing a ‘care for those in need’ policy (and resourcing)!
27 February 2021
The Rule of Law?
“A small number of special forces soldiers who blew the whistle on alleged war crimes at an official inquiry have been issued termination notices against the advice of the military watchdog.”
What happened to the ‘rule of law’? Seems to me that there are massive claims for compensation pending if whistle-blowers and others are sacked without any recourse to the law.
What role does the Australian Defence Association play in this? I recall when it was established that it was to be the representative body which advocated on behalf of service personnel and their interests. It has moved well away from such a role, however.
What role does the Judge Advocate General play? Do its officers represent the interests of soldiers in such circumstances? As far as I can see … they do not. (The JAG Office certainly wasn’t proactive in such a representation when I sought their assistance on behalf of others some years ago.)
What role do unit associations play? When I asked another RAAC association in the past … the response was along the lines of “We’re not interested … only want to have a few beers and swap a few stories”. (Hopefully not all unit associations are like this.)
Is someone is going to stand up for the Rule of Law and ensure that it applies to all concerned (no matter their circumstances). Hopefully so, but who? I feel bad leaving this here.
It’s not publicity. Alan Jones isn’t going to present legal opinion in court. Who then? If I were a whistle-blower and/or one of those alleged to have done ‘something’, who had received a ‘please explain why you shouldn’t be dismissed‘ letter, I would seek ‘Legal Aid’ (because I wouldn’t be able to afford a private lawyer and even if I could, I shouldn’t have to).
You signed up to serve your nation… and what do you get? Maybe there are other avenues?
26 February 2021
Feather in the Envelope Part 2
Responses to yesterday’s topic include the following:
I’ve never heard of anything similar; I’m not even sure about the significance or meaning of a cockatoo feather. The closest thing in my experience is the mailing of a white feather during the 2nd world war to indicate the sender thought someone was a coward because they were not overseas fighting the enemy – obviously had no idea of the number of people it took to keep one active duty soldier in the field. Whatever, tell ’em “sod ’em” and carry on with all your good work, mate.
Bruce the coward that sent you the feather will never have the guts to face you
man to man ignore the sod.
Not sure about you Bruce but I have always found those who cannot stand and face you to be the most reprehensible of characters.
Leadership is about standards and if those standards are yours so be it. In my military careers I did not always like (subjective word) my superiors but I respected their rank and position. As a young soldier I some time thought the SSM was a pain for making us clean things that in our minds didn’t need cleaning for at least 100 years.
I remember one particular captain of one particular ship I served on for a short time. Never spoke to the crew, officers and sailors unless to give directions or orders and tended to be aloof from all. But there was not a man or women he did not know well. I nearly fell overboard when he asked me to dine with him in his mess deck. A very friendly fellow and was interested in all I was doing. I have to say I was not a member of his crew just attached for the operation.
I suppose you could always look at the feather as “as you put it, put a feather in you cap” for all the things you have done in research and your belief in all things armoured.
Wear it with pride and give the world the finger.
There is always that lunatic fringe of people and no I’ve never received one of those. Definitely report it to the cops. Who knows what a lunatic like that thinks. Either that or someone you trying to wind you up.
[My response to the last: There was no criminal offence involved, so no cause for the police action (unlike the previous incident). If the intent was to ‘wind me up’, then that has failed. It’s only caused me to double down on my resolve in terms of my principles. I wonder who such a gutless bastard might be?]
STOP PRESS!! Google tells me that finding a cockatoo feather means that: Happiness and laughter surround you. Your vision is clear and perfect and you are blessed, protected, loved and guided. Who could ask for more?
25 February 2021
Feather in the Envelope
Is this a first, or has someone else received something similar?
Mail arrived today. One letter (no sender’s address) contained a cockatoo feather (ie, white and yellow). It was postmarked Northgate Mail Centre (north Brisbane) on 15 February 2021 (2319 hrs). I wonder who I might have upset. The Police might be able to get fingerprints or find something on CCTV if asked.
This is the second time I’ve (apparently) been threatened. The first was a DVA oral history interview with a tank crewman who claimed I was too strict (picquets etc). He was going to beat the crap out of me when he got a chance. The police on that occasion were able to locate the person and assure me that he was not a threat (just ‘big talk’).
He had also boasted during the interview that he had pissed on the OC’s ice cream when he was on Mess duty, because the OC made some crewmen wear flak jackets (after a number were wounded) … “he was a little Hitler!“. These remarks were combined with claims that we shot and killed everyone whether enemy or civilian: FINALLY, DVA were convinced to remove the interview from its archive. (It was a long road to get to this point!)
Does anyone else have a feather to wear in their cap?
What Should You Do When You Receive a White Feather?
One of the things that people do whenever they receive a white feather is to thank the angel or deceased loved one. Some people engage in a conversation with the angel messenger or directly with their deceased loved one. [But maybe a cockatoo’s feather is different?]
24 February 2021
Seniority of RAAC Units Part 5
Following on from yesterday, my response to the Minister is copied below:
Dear Minister [for Veterans’ Affairs],
Many thanks for your letter of 7 February 2021 in response to my enquiry regarding the seniority list for RAAC regiments. As you mention, I had previously contacted Army about this matter. The response that I received was that Australian Military Regulations were rescinded in 2015, but their provisions remain the basis for the order of seniority for units in the Army today, ie “the units of the Permanent Forces have precedence over the units of the Reserves”.
I was advised that when the 2/14 LHR (QMI) reverted from an ARES to an ARA unit, an appropriate change in the order of seniority could have been made. BUT … no-one asked that this be done. Hence my letter to you, asking that the order of seniority of 2/14 LHR (QMI) be amended to agree with current Army requirements.
You replied on 7 February 2021 to say that Army had decided not to make the change, as it would not help in reducing “the historical barriers between full time and part time service. Army’s position is that distinguishing between full-time and part-time units undermines the Australian Defence Force’s Total Workforce System”.
I can understand this policy, however, the following matters now arise.
Is it allowable for individual Corps to have differing arrangements as far as the seniority of their units are concerned? If this is NOT the case, what is the basis of the order of seniority to be … numerical sequence, date of formation, stand-alone regiments before merged regiments, etc? Finally, what is the authority of this to be?
Can you please advise.
23 February 2021
The Seniority of RAAC Units Part 4
Following on from 21 February 2021, the comments below are relevant:
Bruce, I do not want you to take offence as you mean well but to most people the seniority list does not mean much. It more important to report on and correct when wrong the deeds and history of the various Australian units. I am glad the 10th Light horse went over the top at the Nek before the 9th Light Horse as my grandfather was in the Following on from … these comments are relevant:9th. Just imagine a crusty old major yelling at the 9th and 10th to get their order of their numerical succession correct as the bullets were wizzing past.
You may well be right … the matter might not be of any significance to members of the RAAC at all.
Then again, if we can’t get the foundations of our heritage and traditions right … what’s left?
There was considerable opposition to emblazoning the Coral Balmoral battle honour on the Standard and 3 Cav Guidon. The Ceremonial Manual wouldn’t allow it, so I was informed by those ‘on high’. Persistence proved the opposite. I think the result is of significance to those involved in the battles.
Seems to me that there needs to be a valid reason for decisions by the ‘powers that be’.
If this is not to be the case, then it’s all a sham and we’re responsible.
PS. Of course, it could well be argued that there is no need for an order of seniority of RAAC regiments at all. But if there is to be one, surely the order has to be based on valid grounds which are open to all.
The comments below followed:
Hi Bruce, to me the deeds and history of a unit are the foundations of our heritage and traditions and caring people like yourself are needed to balance out life’s hurdles such as the dusty Ceremonial manual non allowance that you struck. Good one for doing what you did and you can have my share of reading the book. I am on the same wave length as you as far as persistence is concerned and if it loses a person some friends and acquaintances, well that is fine.
Bruce, you know what I think, and you should keep doing what you are doing, for two reasons. The first is to make things right, and that will be appreciated by those who follow us. The second is that for those of us who were taught that the standard you are prepared to walk past is the standard you are prepared to accept (RSM Curly Tim’s), you need to pursue the ideals you hold close. More power to you.
Hi Bruce, Our History is more valuable than it ever was and I commend you for your work and ability to make things right. To many drongos out there are trying to scrub our History from the books in every subject to do with our country. The Education system refuses to even teach it to our children. If not for those who have the skills, and abilities to bring it together properly, where would those coming after us find the Truth? As John has said and I couldn’t put it any better. So Mote it Be. Make of it what you will.
22 February 2021
War Crimes Revisited: Part 2
Following on from 19 February 2021 … a comment read as follows:
Hello Bruce Cameron,
Very young Australia has never had the internal conflict of many older nations, apart from the undeniable persecution of the original inhabitants during colonization.
There have historically been recriminations in many older countries of the world after conflicts, which generally fade as reconstruction and development progress.
Russia for example lost 28 million people in WW2 (and still counting), but today has around 300 plus McDonalds outlets, all of the world fashion houses, Irish pubs, etcetera. Younger generations speak better English than Australians, the boys have neat haircuts and the girls are nicely groomed.
Undoubtedly, the surviving older Vietnamese boat people have psychological baggage from the Vietnam War era; but much has since changed in their country of origin.
Vietnamese are very enterprising and their advancement over the past 50 years has been enormous. Have a peep at Google Earth and view the extensive development between Ho Chi Minh City and Vung Tau, including areas once within the 1ATF Tactical Area of Responsibility.
Also; go to ALDI and note the superior quality of packaging for their seafood products. A friend in the building industry comments similarly re their hardware.
Communism is just a system of government that has adapted well to a rapidly changing world, as evidenced by China Russia and Vietnam. But Australia in my view is following the Brits and Americans into decline, fostered by capitalistic greed.
If I were 40 years younger, I would seriously consider emigrating to China or Russia, but perhaps not
Vietnam. Although I much like the people and their land, I would feel too guilty about what I did to many.
A response to this was provided by another reader:
I saw Communism in Poland and DDR in mid-80s. There were very good reasons for the Wall coming down. And that’s because essentially Communism imploded from its own lies and contradictions.
Back in Sydney, I found it very difficult to explain the constant, grey awfulness and depression of it all. That was until I met Vietnamese boat people. I write with no sense of self flattery of how a Vietnamese Catholic priest said that I was first to really understand why they’d fled. And I found he understood me.
I’m not surprised they’ve done well because they value freedom. We don’t.
The Russians who profit from Communism’s fall bring their dirty money to places like London and Vienna. They’re not nice people. Putin is a thug.
The Chinese are certainly different. Those coming to U.K. (where I am now) and Africa don’t want to stay and rule. They just want to strip out and go home. They are utterly ruthless in social control and squashing dissent. China has an appalling human rights record. For example, if you think that harvesting prisoners’ organs are the right thing to do, then China could be the place for you.
Seems to me that helping those who did want to be subjected to communist rule by force, was the right thing to do.
21 February 2021
Seniority of RAAC Units: Part 4
Following on from 29 October 2020 and 5 November 2020 …
I had to write to the Minister to get both the dates on the Vietnam Theatre Honour on the 1 Armd Regt Standard corrected and the Coral-Balmoral Battle Honour emblazoned. It appears that I’ll have to do the same re the seniority listing of RAAC units.
The seniority of RAAC units is currently listed as:
1st Armoured Regiment
2nd Cavalry Regiment
1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers
2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (QMI)
4th/19th Prince of Wales’s Light Horse Regiment
12th/16th Hunter River Lancers
B Sqn 3rd/4th Cavalry Regiment
A Sqn 3rd/9th South Australian Mounted Rifles
A Sqn 10th Light Horse Regiment
I believe this is wrong as 2/14 LHR (QMI) has transitioned from being an ARES unit to an ARA unit.
The importance of this is that ARA units should take precedence before ARES units. The following refers (thanks to Bruce Scott): Australian Military Regulations, Part 3, Para 68 (2) of 2007:
“Units of the Army take precedence as follows:
(a) the units of the Permanent Forces have precedence over the units of the Reserves;
(b) the units have precedence according to the order of their numerical succession;
(c) if units are not included in a numerical succession, the units have precedence according to the order in which the Commands to which they belong are specified in the instrument appointing Commands.”
The Corps RSM states that what is stipulated is “what it is” and the President of the 2/14 LHR (QMI) states he receives advice from those serving.
When I was trying to correct the error re the dates that 1 Armd Regt served in Vietnam on the Standard (I declare a vested interest, my tank troop was the last to serve on operations), it seemed to me that nobody wanted to cause a ‘fuss’, ie. they would not be looked on well if they were to do so (even if the historical facts were without doubt).
Why do we not place importance on historical accuracy? What if the Life Guards’ Queen’s Cavalry Standard showed the wrong dates for Waterloo? There would be outrage, and justly so. (I mentioned this in my submission to the Minister.) But not here in Australia … we don’t want to cause a ‘fuss’.
I’ve received a response from the Minister. Lo and behold there is a reason for the current seniority of RAAC units, ie. that of “reducing the historical barriers between fill and part time units. Army’s position is that distinguishing between full-time and part-time units undermines the ADF’s Total Workforce system, to which the CA is fully committed”.
So AMR 2007 (above) is no longer applicable. I wonder if it has been amended? Maybe, I’ll ask the Minister. More to follow.
20 February 2021
The Tank Capability of the Future Part 4
A comment re my above article; it is good to see that as well as being the most read article of the week, it has also sparked some discussion …
The triad of ‘lethality, mobility and protection’ is a useful idea for design, comparison and decision. However, what is missing is a deep appreciation that ‘lethality’ is the ‘first amongst equals’; given that the vehicles are there to ‘apply fire against a range of targets’, which might or might not support other systems. The core issue has always been – ‘how do we envisage our plan for the ‘application of fire’ against an adversary’, in a particular terrain, to achieve a particular effect (task-conditions-standard). That is we need to consider what the ‘lethality need’ means to mobility and protection, not the other way round. Since the best protected or mobile systems are nought if they can’t deal with the aerial, terrestrial and human targets they will face. As for engaging in discussions, I believe one of the significant reasons there is limited discussion about the use of our capabilities is because we lack a coherent idea of how we’ll mobilise, deploy and then fight to achieve what are too often unspecified strategic objectives. The result is the notion that the ADF exists to provide options to a militarily illiterate government, guided by egotistical services and groups. The result is the parochial acquisition of systems, not the development of robust ‘kill-action chains’ that can actually ensure the prosperity of our people and the sovereignty of our state.
“I guess the critical challenge is that of being capable of disrupting and defeating the enemy’s ‘kill-action chains’. In terms of lethality, I was a little dismissive of directed energy weapons being capable of engaging the full spectrum of targets (as referred to in the 2020 Force Structure Review), but I see that such may well be feasible:
“… the laser weapon, not just the laser, the whole laser weapon, could now start being made small enough, powerful enough, to now be deployed on Army vehicles, Navy ships, and even on aircraft. So, that’s really what changed the game. And as you can see, there’s a lot of activity in this domain from our customers, all the services are now advancing capability in laser weapon systems for land, sea, and air.”
19 February 2021
War Crimes Revisited
The following article was recently published: https://johnmenadue.com/corrupted-intelligence-failures-in-australias-afghanistan-date-back-to-vietnam/
I responded as below:
“The profound intelligence problem is that we don’t know our own history.”
I would add ‘because we don’t accept responsibility’.
One might further say that we ‘neither accept nor acknowledge’ responsibility. This has been the case since 1770.
The Government isn’t responsible, because it believed what it was told by the Chief of Defence; he isn’t responsible because he believed what he was told by the Chief of Army; he isn’t responsible because he believed what he was told by the Commander, Australian forces in Afghanistan; he isn’t responsible …
Obviously, there was a failure in training, ie. forces were deployed ill prepared for their operational task. Some will say that such things couldn’t have been foreseen.
Material provided to our school children by DVA states that Australian forces in Vietnam killed enemy who were wounded or otherwise unable to defence themselves. When I asked the Government in 2005, I was informed that these incidents had not been investigated. I then asked the Minister if he could assure the Australian people that appropriate training had been put in place so that such things could never happen again. He said it had.
Seems to me that responsibility is something that’s in the eye of the beholder.
Reading some of the comments below, makes me think of the appreciation expressed by the Vietnamese community in Australia (VCA) for the efforts that Australia made on their behalf. They did not want to live under communist rule and their families still there do not want to so either. The human rights situation is abysmal, but who cares? The VCA are truly grateful for the efforts made on their behalf. As far as the suggestion that we (Australians) shot everyone without regard to the Rules of Engagement (ROE), this is not so. The following personal example explains:
I was a tank troop leader in Vietnam. The Rules of Engagement (ROE) were that we had to positively identify enemy before we engaged. In essence, this meant that they had to be carrying weapons. One night we were in an ambush. Using a first-generation night vision device, the sentry saw four legs … two followed by another two. Upper bodies were obscured. Whoever they were, they were breaking the curfew. This did not mean they were enemy, however. After ‘standing to’, I counted down over the radio and all tanks switched on their searchlights. There was no need to give the order to fire. Illuminated was the biggest buck deer anyone had ever seen. The four legs were explained.
18 February 2021
“So, if you look at that prism, there’s a white light beam that comes into the prism and it breaks up into the colors of the rainbow, you could run that in reverse, you could have a whole bunch of beams that cover the different spectrums, and if you put it through the prism, they all combine and output a single beam. We call it kinda the ‘reverse prism effect.’ So what all of a sudden we were able to do was to scale laser power in a modular way. Instead of just trying to build a bigger and bigger laser, we’re actually scaling by adding lasers up.”
That how Lockheed Martin describe the breakthrough in laser weapons technology. But as seen below, not all are convinced.
“Finally, the strangest proposal in the [2020 Australian Force Structure] plan must surely be for the development of laser guns able to be mounted on vehicles and “defeating” targets up to and including main battle tanks.
This sounds like an odd idea. Recently, no less than the head of Research and Engineering for the US Department of Defense stated he was sceptical that lasers – even ones large enough to be put on a 747 – could shoot down a missile. And rockets, of course, don’t have armour.
If that’s what you can get from a jumbo jet, how is a weapon on a Bushmaster meant to stop a 50-ton fighting vehicle? Of course, Defence may be thinking about much lower‑powered lasers to destroy enemy electro-optical systems, rendering them blind and thus “defeated”.
But perhaps the ADF knows something we don’t? Maybe Dr Evil has been busily at work shifting lasers from shark tanks to actual tanks. We live in interesting times.”
BUT, support for Lockheed Martin is given below:
“What that meant was that the system demands, the platform demands were greatly reduced, and it meant that the laser weapon, not just the laser, the whole laser weapon, could now start being made small enough, powerful enough, to now be deployed on Army vehicles, Navy ships, and even on aircraft. So, that’s really what changed the game. And as you can see, there’s a lot of activity in this domain from our customers, all the services are now advancing capability in laser weapon systems for land, sea, and air. Lockheed Martin is a premier provider of this technology in all these domains, and we are working in all these domains.”
PS. A nice note just received:
“I would like to congratulate you on having the most viewed article for the week of Jan 23-31 for your article titled ‘The Tank Capability of the Future’. As the winner of the article of the week, The Cove would like to send you a ‘Cove Coin’ to commemorate your achievement.”
It’s pleasing that the numbers of readers would suggest an active interest in the subject.
17 February 2021
Defence Preparedness 3
Staying with the theme … a further comment is copied below:
“In my opinion (informed only by publicly available information) the risk of military invasion of Australia is minimal. What is to be gained by an invader that is not available to them by their already significant ownership of our agriculture, mineral and hydrocarbon resources, and vast holdings of real estate. Billions of dollars on defence spending is to what end? Against what threat? Strategic risk assessments have a half-life of a few months. The defence budget is necessarily spread thinly across many capabilities which may or may not have worth in defence of the country. Our defence spending should be focused on a serious deterrence capability. By which I mean, a nuclear capability, with delivery by submarine and/or long-range aircraft or missiles. A very simple defence posture: don’t poke the venomous snake. Less costly, more effective. We do not need land forces that can be deployed overseas, naval assets beyond what is required to patrol our sea border and near sea lanes, or ridiculously expensive air-to-air combat jets. We do need better intelligence services, cyber warfare capability and a defence force trained and organised to deal with major disasters.”
It is fair to say that there is a wide variance of views with respect to Defence. I believe that this due in part, to a lack of trust in those who govern us. This is, in turn, being due to a lack of leadership by them.
Defence is obviously an area in which complete openness and transparency is impossible. Without faith in those making the decisions, where do we go?
There is a woeful lack of informed discussion in the public arena. The Lowy Institute and ASPI are viewed as not being completely objective and unfortunately organisations like ADA and USI have a very low profile.
Vested interests undoubtedly lurk in the background. I don’t have the answers. I can only ring the warning bells. Seems to me that this is the same situation which led to Australian forces being deployed to Vietnam and Afghanistan ill prepared (and remained so throughout those conflicts).
16 February 2021
Defence Preparedness 2
Another comment on my post on 14 February was (replying to another comment) was: “ … you are 100% spot on. We are under prepared, under manned and under equipped. As you said we would grind to a halt after 28 days. Probably less if our allies say we have got our own problems, you are on your own. Just think for a moment no fuel and no power, it is scary!
We may, just be able to hold off Fiji or NZ if they decided to attack.
As I have written on this site before, I do not believe that any future warfare/invasion will not follow any resemblance of attack as we recall them.
I see two BIG problems. All politicians of all political parties are totally obsessed with what they need to do to be re-elected. They are so keen to have the economy look good that they will sell their souls (including Darwin harbor) to balance the budget. They are also permitting and encouraging all other countries to purchase property across the length and breadth of this country. Once they have sufficient numbers, they will simply say it is ours now. If there is to be a more forceful take over there will be covert measures such as Corona Virus. Bruce where were the Spooks when this intelligence was circulating? It is a sad state of affairs.
My response ….
“If there is to be a more forceful take over there will be covert measures …”.
What are such covert measures likely to involve?
There will be agents here who report infrastructure and strategic target locations and do their part to destroy them; and there will be cyber attacks to disrupt all military command and control communications.
Targets that might be of particular value in being reported would be those related to intelligence gathering/analysing sites that are not commonly known (ie, without signs out in front of their buildings) … of course, the infrastructure targets are those which have the max impact on population functioning (eg, railways; bridges etc).
One has to wonder whether or not biological weapons might also be used in terms of water supplies and the like.
It is obvious that those who safeguard such information, take the view that it is too sensitive to be released and discussed publicly.————————————————————————————————
15 February 2021
Image: ABC News
One of the comments on my post yesterday was:
“A serious question gentlemen. Does anybody really think 90 M1 tanks (along with the rest of the armed forces) would be sufficient to defend Australia if another country actually got antsy and actually attacked?
Airborne and seaborne attacks have occurred in the past and even with the advances in military hardware and personnel there is no way Australia could defend itself (not with our coastline) against an invader without an exponential growth in our armed forces, even then we’d be on a hiding to nothing.
It only needs our sea lanes blockaded and we are stuffed. Our fuel situation for one has us at a disadvantage. Currently 28 days and that’s for everything. Restrict fuel to military use only and how much longer would it last?
Answers? I have none but I’m really interested in what you gentlemen think. Only way I can see is going guerrilla. Hit hard and bugger off, but how long could that last?”.
|“Good questions … The whole matter of Defence preparedness (ie. ADF force structure and size, readiness levels and contingency plans) is linked to Warning and Lead Times. The Warning Time is that which our intelligence services advise we have to alert us before a credible threat becomes an actual one; the Lead Time is that which involves the time to acquire necessary equipment and logistic stocks from countries of origin and train the ADF to the required standard. The latter connects directly with the necessary level of our Defence Self-Reliance. |
If we have faith in the ability of our intelligence services and those preparing the ADF contingency plans, then everything should be ok.
Theoretically, the fact that the RAAC has a significant operational capability gap at present would be seen in the light of there being a very low threat level, leading to a low ADF preparedness state.
But … if one has an average intelligence level, this might be questioned.”
14 February 2021
$235 million Armoured Fighting Vehicle Facilities Program
Following on from yesterday …
The RAAC have missed the boat with respect to: (i) ensuring that the RAAC ARES have a platform which is suitable to maintain the skills of mobile warfare (though Hawkei might be a game changer, if it’s reliability probs can be fixed); (ii) ‘right sizing’ the Abrams tank fleet to 90; and (iii) preventing an operational capability gap with respect to ACR reconnaissance squadrons.
The parliamentary submission also includes an interesting map showing the geographical location (and numbers) of RAAC AFVs. From it, it will be seen that that an ACR tank squadron comprises 14 tanks (rather than 20 as previously). Is this, three troops of four tanks or four troops of three tanks? Of course, the two SHQ tanks are used as ‘replacements’ for the tank troops.
Unfortunately, what the current fleet number means is continued overuse of the tanks … which will result in the same loss of operational capability as presently exists with the ASLAVs.
13 February 2021
New AFV Simulation Centre.
Image: Defence Connect
A few days ago, the Minister for Defence Industry stated (inter alia) that:
The close combat warfighting capability of the Australian Army has been strengthened by a $31 million Morrison Government investment in the delivery of a new, three-storey Armoured Vehicle Simulation Centre in Townsville.
The facility will support the training of 3rd Brigade soldiers at Lavarack Barracks for the upgraded M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank [LAND 907, below] and incoming LAND 400 and LAND 8160 [below] armoured vehicle capabilities.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price today announced St Hilliers had been awarded the head contract to deliver the $31 million package as part of the $235 million Armoured Fighting Vehicle Facilities Program Stage 1 works.
“The LAND 400 Phase 2 Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles and the Phase 3 Infantry Fighting Vehicles will represent a generational leap in the Australian Army’s warfighting capability.
“Together with the upgraded M1 tank and its armoured engineering variants, these vehicles will deliver a world-class close combat capability for Australia.”
LAND 907 Phase 2 – Main Battle Tank Upgrade project – to upgrade the M1A1 Main Battle Tank, the M88A2 Armoured Recovery Vehicle and tank supporting systems.
LAND 8160 Phase 1 -Combat Engineering Vehicles project – to acquire a new armoured engineering capability with assault breaching, armoured bridge launching, armoured engineer and armoured recovery capabilities.
More tomorrow …
12 February 2021
10 LH Regiment
What’s happening? In an earlier Blog I referred to the following:
From 13 Bde Facebook Page (5 Jan 21): 2021 is going to be a big year for 13th Brigade. Starting from February, the Brigade will commence its transformation journey.
A multi-year, multi-dimensional evolution, to become the backbone of a standing Joint Task Force made up of a hybrid workforce.
Think new partnerships, new capabilities, and new approaches.
The transformation train is starting its engine, so jump on board, follow our page, and join us on this exciting journey.
I emailed Derek Simpson [Corps RSM] to ask if he can you help explain what the above means and whether or not it will be a model for the ARES as a whole?
This post on the 13 Bde FB would suggest changes are imminent:
“Western Australia’s most storied Military Unit, the 10th Light Horse Regiment, will be re-raised in the second half of 2021 for the first time since 1976. Its DNA has been kept alive inside A Squadron, 10th Light Horse.
Looking to the future, it will epitomise the very best of a hybrid workforce focused on blending traditional Cavalry skillsets with emerging platforms and sensors. Delivering new methods of networked intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to the Joint Force. Stay tuned for more updates…Commander 13th Brigade, Brigadier Brett Chaloner.”
This was reinforced by the following:
13th Brigade Facebook Page (29 Jan21): ·
Welcome back to work 13th Brigade!
As you may have already picked up, 2021 is all about transformation.
Transforming 13th Brigade from a reserve Brigade into a hybrid, joint, contemporary agile force.
At a Town Hall meeting in December, Commander 13th Brigade, Brigadier Brett Chaloner, issued a challenge to all members.
To have an evolving mindset, to contribute to a competition of ideas, and to explore ways to harness Western Australia’s potential.
Are you ready for 2021?
11 February 2021
RAAC ARES: Making us Proud: Part 2
Further quotes from the report (see yesterday) are provided below:
Late in February near the end of the fires we were able to cut away three of our LT’s to attend their last module of the ROBC at the School of Armour. All did very well on the ROBC and have made excellent additions to A Sqn.
We had only restabilised our unit and completed all of the backlog of administration when the first COVID-19 lockdown occurred. As a unit we were quite well prepared for remote parading. The 2018 reduction in Tuesday night parading, and the later use of remote on-line parading tools, had almost by chance prepared us for COVID-19. Our TP Leaders and Sqn Commanders have continued to develop online training mechanisms through the year. They have had guest speakers from the likes of the RSM Ceremonial and the Shrine speak to them via VTC. They have participated in Military Education presentations as well as using the new software developed by the Army to conduct tactical TEWT like activities. The Regiment’s ability to adapt to this environment is testament to their training and conditioning.
The Regt deployed approximately 15 people as part of the border protection operation in the North of Australia. They were a fantastic team who did a really good job.
Many of our people have been involved in OP COVID Assist …
See the full report here: https://lancers.org.au/C2020/PWLH.pdf
I don’t think it’s mentioned, but the Assn has stated that the CO & RSM are taking the 4LH Guidon to Beersheba this year.
Seems to me to be a unit doing well!
10 February 2021
RAAC ARES: Making us Proud
The quotes below are from the 4/19 PWLH Assn report to the 2020 RAAC Corporation meeting …
“2020 arrived in a ball of fire and Operation Bushfire Assist started for the Regiment on New Year’s Eve. Within a day we were preparing the first PMV section of five vehicles to deploy to Gippsland (AO Coastal). Our first team was typical of those early days of the fires. They were a very obvious presence; they were a welcome boost to morale to regional communities and did all they could to help. They were a real credit to us all. An early task for that section was the transporting Metropolitan Fire staff through very difficult terrain to conduct damage assessments that would inform the majority of the planning for the state from that time on. That first section was soon relieved by a second section who continued to make sure that the entire capability offered by the PMV was understood by both civilian agencies and some of our military planners. The effectiveness of the PMV and the crews who manned them was a key capability in the burnt-out terrain. The first vehicles to reach Mallacoota were PMVs.
The Regiment also sent sections up North into AO Alpine, they got a far North as the Murray River and as far East as Omeo. The destruction in AO North was often overshadowed in the media by Gippsland, the devastation up North was also complete in its obliteration. Our people continued to provide protected lift right through to the end of February. They experienced destruction and grief in their own country but often reported that they felt proud to be of service in their own country. Those that did not serve in the fire zones contributed in the JTF HQ ensuring that vital operational and logistic planning was conducted. Others served in the State Control Centre working with the multiple agencies supporting the overall State effort. The CO stated it was impossible not to feel proud of their efforts, the entire Regiment turned out and those that did not serve in uniform were already busy serving in their civilian roles.
One event worth mentioning is the support offered by some of our PMV crew during the search and rescue operation for a four-year-old child. The section provided vital mobility in rugged terrain, CPL Sharma reported that he was proud to be involved in such an important search effort at Waterholes, a locality 240km from Melbourne. After an extensive search operation consisting of more than 200 police and emergency service his team played a key role in finding and reuniting the toddler with his parents after spending a night lost and alone in the burnt-out terrain.”
More to follow tomorrow ….
9 February 2021
The following letter has been sent to the Canberra Times. It’s not an Armouredadvocates matter per se, however, I think it an important one. I wonder what responses I’ll get.
Recently I was in a Canberra shopping area. I had just taken out some money from an ATM and when I turned around, I noticed a middle-aged lady on the ground in distress. I got her up and helped her to a nearby seat. She told me that she had had a fall and that she would be all right.
At this time, I noticed that there were people seating just a couple of meters away. They must’ve seen or heard the actual fall. Somewhat bemused, I called into a nearby Chemist shop. I explained what happened in the hope that one of their staff might check on the lady and call a doctor if thought prudent. If I’d been hoping for assistance for a person in distress, I was wrong. It turned out that there was a doctor’s surgery not far away and I should go there to inform them of my concerns.
I report the above in the full knowledge of letters to the Canberra Times which have praised Canberrans for helping others. Why is it that there would appear to be stark exceptions to this aspect of human kindness?
8 February 2021
Organisation: 50th Anniversary Commemoration Operation Overlord
Discussion related to the above event on another forum included the following:
“Let me tell you about the Gedong presentation in Brisbane with the Duke of Edinburgh.
As you blokes all know we were presented with cards as to where we were to be corralled.
Gold cards to white all different colours.
My self and a couple of my veteran cobbers decided to go to the gold area.
An RAAC Capt, whom when I was a soldier was a Sgt, informed us we could not enter and get back to where we belonged..
It got very heated I said to the Capt this will do your career no good having a brawl in front of the Duke of Edinburgh.
The next thing Roger Kershaw marches up he was now a colonel and he says Capt let these men in. Maybe it helped I was Lt Kershaws Saladin Driver in 1 and 2 Cav.”
For a supposedly egalitarian society, we’re hugely class conscious. Take military awards, for example. Gallantry and distinguished service are exactly that. Recognition should not differ on the basis of whether not you’re an officer. This is now changing. But the distinction remains in other areas. Miniature Army Combat Badges are only provided to those of SNCO rank or higher. (Lower classes are not thought to have a need for formal evening wear.) We were able to overturn the policy of not presenting ACBs to the NOK of those KIA, but the class divide still exists as far as miniatures are concerned.
The Overlord Commemoration was the idea of the CO 3RAR from the time. Battalion and tank squadron personnel have been working on our associated reunions for years. RAAC representative organisations were not prepared to assist as the Commemoration was only a proposed one and they ‘did not want to raise members’ expectations’. (DVA could not confirm it until their funding for the FY involved was approved.) By investing time in contacting everyone early, it is possible to overcome “the difficulties and challenges [that] arise in obtaining firm numbers, particularly so far out from the major activity” [comment by Chairman, RAAC Corporation].
As a result, in 2019 we were able to make a booking for a dinner for 60 and secure discounted accommodation. Presently we have 64 attendees who have paid and another 20 whose payments are awaited. Because rooms sold so quickly, a second discount arrangement has had to be negotiated. Advance planning has also meant that we’ve been able to source photos/film etc and the AV presentation will be a real feature of the evening. Collaboration and input on the part of all has paid real dividends. I think that there is a lesson here for representative organisations and those involved in future commemorations (the next being that for the Battle of Nui Le later this year and then that for the end of the Vietnam War).
PS. Our last decision was to agree the menu, taking account of all dietary restrictions.
7 February 2021
Where Does Responsibility Lie?
I have written on this before. The following article has just been published …
My response was:
“… when they are themselves symptomatic of a more serious and more dangerous systemic failure”. I agree entirely!
When writing a unit history related to Vietnam, I discovered that material provided by DVA to Australian schools stated (and still does) that Australian soldiers shot enemy wounded and those who were unable to defend themselves. I asked if these matters had been investigated. The answer was no. I asked the Minister at the time, if he could give an assurance to the Australian public that such things could never happen again. He did. A submission has been made to the Inquiry; happy to provide a copy to the Australia Institute.
Another comment caught my eye:
“Mr Behm: thank you, that is pretty convincing. in major transport system accidents (rail, air, ships) there is a similar issue – temptation, particularly in house or in industry to blame the driver/pilot / mechanic. in such transport there is (should be) a very clear chain of command. when things go wrong, proper investigations often – usually – ask ‘how was the driver put in that position’ i.e. training, state of mind, managerial oversight. if nobody noticed the bad apples in the barrel, there needs to be better ways of looking at apples, and that involves some sheeting of responsibility to those who were supposed to look. Regards”.
My response? Well said!
6 February 2021
The Tank Capability of the Future Part 3
The introduction to my article in The Cove referred to following quote:
“For just over a century, the tank has been the key symbol of land power. Today, tanks no longer enjoy the same level of battlefield supremacy that they used to. So, what’s next? Do they still have a role to play? If so, how do they need to evolve and what will the next generation look like in terms of features and capabilities?”. Nicholas Drummond, https://uklandpower.com/2020/04/05/where-does-the-tank-go-from-here/
Greg Chalik commented that:
“Nicholas Drummond and the Australian Army share something, a tactical mindset. However, the Australian Government knows the Australian Army is a strategic military service, and expect the operational delivery of strategic options when needed. The ‘tank’ is merely a small part of the tactical solution-set to the above, but by the virtue of the size and weight, creates operational reach constraints to the tactical mission aim success. The systems engineering design challenge is therefore very different to the ‘tank’ designers in Australia as opposed to most other countries. Nicholas Drummond fails to address this challenge.”
My response was as below:
“Thanks for your input, Greg.
Operational reach constraints imposed by size and weight, equates to the need for a capability that is readily deployable over long distances. I agree.
The tank is merely a small part of the tactical solution-set, equates to a need to structure future operational forces in such a way that direct fire support can be provided in a deployable ‘all arms’ context. I agree.
As you point out … the Australian Army’s operational requirements are driven by different priorities to other countries. In this respect, developments of things like the APS might benefit Australia to a greater degree than other countries.”
There is a time lag re comments about Cove articles, nevertheless, I worry about the seeming lack of interest by those in this space today. In 1973, as a 24yo at the Royal Armoured Corps Centre at Bovington. I was tasked with leading a team to design a tank for use outside NW Europe. The task taught those involved so much about the tings that are important in AFVs.
I wonder if such critical thinking has a place today?
5 February 2021.
(What happened to 4 February? … technology! Telstra were very helpful, but some things just do one’s mind in!)
The 1AR Assn Going Forward: Part 2.
Following on from yesterday …
The 1AR Assn President stated at the last AGM that:
“On a personal note, I do wish to address the continued attacks being made against the 1st Armoured Regiment Association and specifically some committee members. For all members, I as the President am disheartened and disgusted that people will continue to deride and accuse the committee of improprieties whilst knowing there is no ability to respond or challenge the allegation. The committee will continue to serve the members best interests, but will not react to bullying and inuendo”.
This is a worrying matter. What is the C’tee being accused of?
This brings to mind the situation of the 1AR Assn’s ‘dark period’. During this time, the C’tee were responsible for matters which were contrary to the regulatory requirements for an incorporated association. Members were misled in this respect. It was only when these things were brought into the open, that changes were made.
Is the same thing happening again? Surely if the C’tee is accused of an impropriety, then it has every right to respond openly. How can it be said that the C’tee has ‘no ability to respond or challenge the allegation’?
As the saying goes: “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. It is the worst possible thing to do, to sweep such allegations under the carpet. Address them head on. Then everyone knows that they are baseless; not to do so, results in doubt lingering.
3 February 2021
The 1AR Assn Going Forward
Many of the shortcomings which have been highlighted previously, have been remedied; for example, financial management has been put on a sound footing and financial reports are prepared in accord with regulatory requirements; a Constitution has also properly developed and put in place in accord with these requirements (and has made available for members to view), minutes of C’tee meetings are now provided to members; AGMs are conducted in accord with regulatory requirements; and criteria for the Honour Roll has been investigated. Congratulations to the C’tee for these and other matters!
However, the Association doesn’t serve former members of the 1st Armoured Regiment per se; it only exists to serve those who are members of the Assn.
Many will say that this is self-evident, as proven by: “Certificates of Acknowledgement of their participation in Coral/Balmoral were sent to 34 Association members in late May/early June prior to the 52nd anniversary of those battles”. These certificates weren’t sent to other members of 1 Armd Regt who fought in the battles of Coral-Balmoral. This follows from the fact that the purposes of the Association apply only to members. https://www.paratus.org.au/constitution.
I thought that this ‘focus’ was changing; e,g. ‘Vale’ notices are now being posted on the 1AR Assn website for all members of 1 Armd Regt who have died, not just 1AR Assn members. This is as it should be; but shouldn’t acknowledgement also be given to ALL those who served with distinction (whether or not they are Assn members)? If it was, such action might well encourage greater membership.
Complete openness and transparency were also called for … more tomorrow.
2 February 2021
An extract is quoted below:
The Russian military is testing its first batch of “Terminator” tank support fighting vehicles.
Built on the chassis of Russia’s T-72 tank, the heavily armored Ramka-99 BMPT-72 tank support combat vehicle — colloquially known as the “Terminator” — is equipped with a lethal suite of weapons capable of destroying tanks, armored fighting vehicles, infantry, helicopters, and some aircraft. It’s also designed to protect its five-man crew from radiation after a nuclear blast.
A video posted by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation on both Facebook and Twitter on Monday shows several Terminators in a live-fire exercise alongside tanks from the 90th Tank Division in the Chelyabinsk region of the Urals. Under overcast skies, the armored formation advances across a snowy field while intermittently firing various weapons. Infantry are seen moving on foot behind the line of armor.
The video can be seen here: https://youtu.be/YVxACMZfnJK
In my article on the ‘The Tank of the Future’, I referred to the “the need to structure future operational groupings in such a way that direct fire support can be provided in a readily deployable ‘all arms’ context”. “One argument is that a new grouping of complementary force capabilities is needed to capitalise on future capabilities, rather than relying on traditional organisational structures.”
It looks like Russia’s development of a Tank Support Vehicle is well along this path.
1 February 2021
The Tank Capability of the Future Part 2
Following on from yesterday…
The article was published on 27 Jan 21. One would’ve hoped that any comments would have been published by now. Quite disappointing really. On the other-hand … I posted the article to the RAAC Facebook page and encouraged quite a few comments. Some of which are copied below.
John Cottis: G’day Bruce, can we say that the T-14 is [shown above] evidence that moving the crew into the hull resulted in weight and size savings? The T-14 is larger in every dimension in any comparison I’ve seen. It’s guaranteed to be heavier by around 10000kg than an earlier T-Series.
Bruce Cameron: Hi John, I’ve seen estimates of Armata ranging from 48 to 55 tonnes (maybe some confusion between tons and tonnes). Given that Leopard 2 and M1A1 Abrams are about 62 tonnes … the question is, how much extra protection has been able to be achieved by placing the crew in a cocoon below the gun (rather than protecting them in their own turret)? The point is … if you maintain traditional concepts, there is no way protection could be increased and weight reduced without APS (which the T-14 has).
Leonardus Ben Groenendijk: Some valid points. Restraints in size have always been based on rail movement, size of tunnels and bridging ability. In regard to attack from above that has been a problem from WW2. The Germans added additional spaced armour on top of the turrets and engine compartments. Along with mobile AA guns mounted on full and half tracked vehicles … something which Australia has never done even though the Gepard was available during the Leopard era. As for weight in armour protection it is a matter of inventing new forms of armour. Australia during WW2 invented a new armour for the Sentinel series of vehicles so why not now? Like everything it about money and sometimes not having a jungle fighter (infantry) mentality. Something akin to turning the Bushmaster into a tank/gun truck even though it was intended to transport troops in a/c comfort a 1000km up to the FEBA. At some point we are going to be on our own (again) so invent it and build it in Australia. And yes, I am an inventor and manufacturer so I have put my money where my mouth is…
Bruce Cameron: Hi Leonardus, re your suggestion “As for weight in armour protection it is a matter of inventing new forms of armour” … the alternative is to invent new forms of protection, this is where the APS comes in. You may consider commenting on the post in ‘The Cove’, this will attract the attention of those who manage such things for the future.
Bruce Cameron: Thanks to you guys above for the comments above … interestingly there have been no responses from “The Home of the Australian Profession of Arms”. I wonder what this says about the state of affairs?
Shane Danau: See you all miss the main problem facing the army and that is we cannot deploy tracked AFV in number to most part off the country in time to be of any use. And if we did get them there. we do not have the resources to keep them in the field. So, do we need to look at a wheeled vehicle that can self-deploy or do we per deploy vehicle in most part off the country. Like we need some over here in the west. To deploy a track force to the N/W from the east coast would take a month or longer and them how to we seaport them
Russell Bird: We need to build 100s of thousands of drones with explosives. Deploy them all over the country. If Australia is invaded conventional weapons will be useless. We all know it.
Bruce Cameron: A comment from a former US Marine:
“Armor has always been a determining factor since WWI. Drones and tech can only take the battle so far and in the end, it is the rifleman, his weapon, will to win, and a damn big tank to back him up, that always gets the job done. Semper Fidelis.”
Just about says it all really.
31 January 2021
The Tank Capability of the Future
The following article (by me) was recently published on The Cove (https://cove.army.gov.au/article/the-tank-capability-the-future) …
“For just over a century, the tank has been the key symbol of land power. Today, tanks no longer enjoy the same level of battlefield supremacy that they used to. So, what’s next? Do they still have a role to play? If so, how do they need to evolve and what will the next generation look like in terms of features and capabilities?”. Nicholas Drummond, https://uklandpower.com/2020/04/05/where-does-the-tank-go-from-here/
The ‘2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan’ stated that: “Defence will develop options for a system to replace the current tank capability when it reaches its end of life. This new system will integrate with reconnaissance and infantry fighting vehicles to ensure the land force retains a decisive land combat capability into the future.” (https://www.defence.gov.au/strategicupdate-2020/)
The fact that Defence has committed to developing options to replace the Abrams, indicates that the tank capability is recognised in terms of its importance for the ADF (and its contingency plans). This is exactly the foresight that’s to be expected of our Defence staff. The US is examining the same circumstances (and has been for many years). The Abrams tank is adequate today and can be improved to meet the needs of tomorrow. But what about the day after and the day after that? What will the replacement for the Abrams tank capability look like?
The answer has to start with the role that the tank fulfills on the battlefield. Is it possible that future wars will not involve infantry? There will be all sorts of autonomous machines, but will any be able to take the place of a soldier? The answer is certainly ‘no’ in the timeframe under consideration. It follows that there will be a need to provide direct fire support, aka the tank capability, as part of a combined arms force underpinning land operations. The fact that the next ‘tank’ may not be anything like the Abrams, is without dispute.
What does such a direct fire capability need to provide? The answer is, as it has ‘always’ been: lethality, survivability, and mobility, under all extremes of climate and terrain. This is self-evident. What is unknown is the way in which advances in technology will influence the solution. There are developments in mobility such as hovercraft and hydrogen fuel cells, however, this is not the breakthrough science.
Direct fire support can be provided by a manned vehicle, a robotic vehicle, or an optionally manned vehicle. The US Army is considering the last concept. One imagines that this is because it is too soon to bank everything on robotics alone.
Many arguments have been advanced that, whether crewed or optionally crewed, the weight of a direct fire support capability has to be reduced to enable it to be deployable in all contingencies. This is especially so in terms of ADF planning. How can this be achieved, while maintaining requisite protection levels?
Volume under armour is the biggest impost on the weight of an AFV. Reducing the size of the crew by incorporating an autoloader was the answer at one time, but the lethality of anti-armour weapons is now so advanced, that this is no longer enough. The current Russian T-14 Armata MBT is one solution. The crew is within a ‘cocoon’ in the hull of vehicle, below the external gun and autoloader. Considerable weight is saved without having to protect crew members in their own turret.
As well as the provision of an Active Protection System (APS) for certain vehicles, the Strategic Update (above) also made reference to: “A future program to develop a directed energy weapon system able to be integrated onto ADF protected and armoured vehicles, and capable of defeating armoured vehicles up to and including main battle tanks.”
Such a weapon is suggestive of a laser, but is unlikely in terms of defeating AFVs in the foreseeable future. Another possibility is a ‘rail gun’. Neither of these technological breakthroughs, however, will resolve the main challenge facing the replacement tank capability.
The APS, however, might be part of the solution. Such systems have been demonstrated to be capable of defeating attack by ATGM and RPGs. But what about kinetic energy penetrators? Can an APS counter these, thereby enabling the weight of armour to be significantly reduced?
A recent press release suggested that this is feasible: “Elbit Systems’ Iron Fist active protection system (APS) has successfully engaged a 120 mm armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot (APFSDS) projectile under test conditions”. If this was to be substantiated, it would really be revolutionary. https://www.janes.com/defence-news/news-detail/iav-2020-elbits-iron-fist-engages-kinetic-energy-round (Elbit is an Israeli company with links to the RAAC.) BUT…what about attack from above? It’s been proposed that low-cost drones could be employed en mass to attack AFVs from above. Will an APS be able to counter this?
If protection is able to be increased and weight reduced … will this be sufficient for a direct fire capability to be deployed on the future battlefield? It has been suggested that a new grouping of complementary force capabilities will be needed in the future, i.e. traditional organisational structures will no longer be adequate.
The challenge is how to provide a future direct fire support capability which is lethal, survivable, and mobile. There are numerous options as far as mobility/engine power are concerned, as there are in terms of firepower. The crux of the design challenge is to decrease weight, while increasing protection against both ground and air attack. The role of APS (especially against `top attack) is crucial; as is the need to structure future operational groupings in such a way that direct fire support can be provided in a readily deployable ‘all arms’ context.
30 January 2021
HOC Briefing: 2020 RAAC Corporation AGM
The Corps RSM, Derek Simpson gave the briefing (https://raacansw.org.au/News.php).
Among the things he mentioned:
RAAC support for bushfires and COVID 19; the Army Skill at Arms Meeting; training being conducted remotely by SoA; the 50th Commemoration of Operation Hammersley; the driver training being conducted by 2/14 LHR (QMI) on Boxer; the upgrade to the Abrams; the possibility that the RAAC ARES might be involved in operating new surveillance equipment; the new Service Category (SERCAT) groupings; and work being done on sustaining the force structure into the future.
What didn’t he mention:
1. The pressing need to right size the Abrams tank fleet (ie. acquire at least 30 more tanks);
2. The role of the RAAC ARES and the platform (if any) it might be equipped with;
3. Army’s operational capability gap brought about by the serviceability problems with the ASLAV and wait for the Boxer; and
4. The coming 50th Commemoration of Operation Overlord.
I’ve asked if he had any comment re these points. (I wonder if he was asked any questions about these matters at the AGM?)
PS. He also raised the question: Do we need to maintain separate tank and cavalry crewmen’s ECNs?
29 January 2021
Role of the RAAC ARES
Image: Dutch Army
I’ve thought that there was complete apathy as far as the RAAC ARES was concerned. The following posts from the Black Beret Facebook page shows that this isn’t completely true:
Garry Wait: Sadly I suspect you are correct about the condition of the LAV’s but that hasn’t stopped giving Reserve units dated equipment previously. For better or worse Canadian reserve units had the 6 wheeled AVGP, Grizzly’s for the mech inf and Cougar’s (scorpion turret) for the “Lt Armoured” and later the 8 wheeled Bison which enabled them to at least to train in the matching rolls of their Regular equivalents with the advantge of not having hand me down vehicles.
In a similar vein bushmaster should have been slated as the Analog APC for all relative units especially after the debacle of the parent troop carriers. In the same way a wheeled AFV (successor to the Saladin?) would have been more appropriate for RAAC reserve units. Imagine being able to drive out the gate in a relevant wheeled vehicle do a route recce or 2hr road run to Pucka spend the weekend training then run home at the end. Not so easy in tracked vehicles
Matthew French And what is their role now? I know do you? That’s the point you’ve missed, reserve units have to provide a certain capability now that is very different to what it might have been back in the 70’s and 80’s. Just because what it used to be, doesn’t mean is what it should have been, or what it can be…….
Terence O’Dowd: Tony [Geyer], I am pleased that someone else sees the solution, even it is one we were forced into using years ago. The Reserve Recon Regiments were indeed able to perform their tasks even with L/R, this was proven time and time again. The role was recon and that was not dependent on what veh you should have but what was on hand. Training could effectively be carried out from troop, squadron and Regimental level and a base for further detailed training was maintained.
Paratus Derek : Follow 13 Brigade as that brigade transitions. 9 Brigade will also go through some significant change over the coming years.
From 13 Bde Facebook Page (5 Jan 21): 2021 is going to be a big year for 13th Brigade. Starting from February, the Brigade will commence its transformation journey.
A multi-year, multi-dimensional evolution, to become the backbone of a standing Joint Task Force made up of a hybrid workforce.
Think new partnerships, new capabilities, and new approaches.
The transformation train is starting its engine, so jump on board, follow our page, and join us on this exciting journey.
I have emailed Derek Simpson to ask if he can you help explain what the above means and whether of not it will be a model for the ARES as a whole?
Summary: There is concern about the ARES ability to maintain complex vehicle platforms, especially if they’re outdated; there is also confusion as to the role for the ARES. Recon is one such role and there is a number of suitable platforms, but the provision of armoured mobility (using the PMV) is another valid role.
28 January 2012
The Distinguished Conduct Medal Part 2.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion and the right to express them. Interestingly, when I posted yesterday’s blog on the RAAC Facebook page, there were 56 ‘likes’ and 26 comments. Of those who commented there were three who thought that my post was inappropriate. See below.
(i) David Paterson At a time of personal loss, not sure this sort of pedantic administrative focused post isn’t tone deaf? Thank you John Carter for your service, sympathy to your family for their loss.
Bruce Cameron Simply wanting to ensure that John Carter is recognised appropriately by our Nation. If you think that it’s a pedantic administrative matter, then I apologise.
David Paterson: Bruce, on RAAC pages that you don’t see, John Carter has been wonderfully remembered as a soldier, mentor and friend by those who he trained and those he served with. The order of awards didn’t seem as important to them as the quality of their relationships. This is not about order but the respect and honor for another who was loved.
Bruce Cameron: On Facebook pages that I see, John Carter has been wonderfully remembered as a soldier, mentor and friend by those who he trained and those he served with. My purpose was to highlight the bravery demonstrated by him (that might not be appreciated by all who knew him). It was not to do with the order of awards, per se.
Peter Purcell: Re the above: To be honest I found this very interesting. Pedantry appears to have been directed towards you Bruce
Bruce Cameron: Everyone has their own perception/motivation, I just wanted to highlight the bravery demonstrated by John Carter (that might not be appreciated by all)
(ii) Jays Short: Why does it matter? Are we really arguing over what is better, an instance of heroic galantry or a lifetime commitment to treating sick kids or furthering legal reform. Can’t we just recognise it all without having a pissing contest over which contribution matters more just because of the position of letters on a list?
Bruce Cameron: I don’t know about you … I’m just putting forward a case that Australians should understand what the criteria for the awards are, ie. whether it be for helping sick kids or displaying exceptional gallantry in action.
(iii) Simon Mason: Why bring this up? Well apart from the whole ‘ look at me I know more than you’.
Not worth the time responding!! But someone else did.
Anthony R Williams: Because some adults can have a discussion without being tools.
27 January 2021
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Sadly, John Carter, OAM, DCM passed away just recently. The 1AR Assn referred to him as John Carter, DCM, OAM. This might be thought to be correct, but it’s not.
The DCM was introduced in 1854 by Queen Victoria for extraordinary gallantry in action by other ranks. It was second only to the VC in this respect. The equivalent award for officers was the DSO for Gallantry (for which Major Harry Smith was recommended for Long Tan.)
The Australian Honours System was introduced in 1975. In terms of its order of precedence, the DCM ranks below the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) and the Public Service Medal (PSM). Supposedly for us, therefore, gallantry isn’t rated all that important in the scheme of things.
Of course, if you were an officer and were awarded the second level award for gallantry, you’d be way higher in our order of precedence. Is it right that gallantry is assessed on the basis of what rank you held? Of course not, and this has been rectified in the revised British award scheme. All ranks in the British Army are now eligible, for example, to be awarded the MC (and awards can now be made posthumously, whereas previously only the VC and mid could be so awarded).
In the British order of precedence, the DCM is way higher than the MC. This is only right as the DCM was the second level of award and the MC was the third (after the VC and DSO). Whereas in our system, the opposite is the case; the MC has precedence over the DCM (the officer thing again).
Seems to me that the Brits have got it right in terms of recognising what constitutes acts of gallantry … whereas we allocate more importance to administrative efficiency in the public service. How did this come about, and more importantly, how can it be fixed?
John Carter’s award needs to be seen in the context of the Imperial awards at the time it was made; ie, second only to the VC in terms of “DECORATIONS, MEDALS FOR GALLANTRY AND DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT”.
PS. It’s been suggested that all Imperial awards are rated less that Australian awards as they are ‘foreign’, but this doesn’t hold true, as the MC is given higher precedence than the MG.
27 January 2021
A Google search for RAAC ARES brought up an article that I wrote for Contact magazine in 2018. I thought it worthy of copying below, as the ‘issues’ still exist. Two of the comments made are copied at the end.
Armour in the Australian Army: Is There Something Wrong? Part 3
How does a mechanised infantry battalion work?
Let’s start with a single IFV … three crew (driver, gunner and commander), plus eight dismounts. So this is an infantry section, three IFVs plus the platoon HQ IFV. It is assumed that the section commander is also the IFV commander, as is the platoon commander.
The concept of the IFV is that it is able to accompany Abrams tanks onto an enemy objective. What happens at this point? The tanks pursue the retreating enemy or defend against a counter-attack; the IFVs dismount their troops to secure the position.
Does the IFV commander dismount to command his section? If he does, presumably there is a spare IFV/section commander among the dismounts. If the section commander/IFV commander needs to remain in the IFV to control supporting fire, presumably the spare commander dismounts to command the infantry section on the ground.
One would imagine that a mechanised battalion has its own career progression, separate to a non-mechanised battalion, i.e. you start off as a dismount, promoted to dismount section commander, then become an IFV driver, gunner, crew commander; then platoon sergeant etc etc.
But wouldn’t it be much more effective, if the inf sections dismounted and came under command of their platoon commander …basic infantry tactics then occurred, with fire support from the AFVs being provided by AFV crews, i.e. RAAC personnel.
How do you integrate basic RAAC tank* skills, D&S, gunnery crew commanding etc, with infantry fieldcraft, to make them a single employment code? If this is not possible and it’s necessary to have two separate employment codes … why not have ECN Infantry and ECN Armour; allowing the two arms to specialise in and develop their respective strengths?
Is it possible that we are to see another failure in terms of planning, similar to that which allowed the RAAC ARES to be relegated to a dismounted role (as the new AFVs are too complex for them to operate)? How incredible is the thinking here? Turn ARA infantry into RAAC personnel and ARES RAAC personnel into infantry. Why not allocate relatively easy to operate vehicles such as HAWKEI to the RAAC ARES to enable them to develop reconnaissance skills and allow them to integrate with ARA cavalry squadrons (not only as ‘dismounts’).
*P.S. The IFV in the British Army is referred to as a ‘medium tank’.
(i) “Some ARES Cav units ( i.e. 4/19 PWLH) currently operate the Bushmaster PMV already so your concept of giving them simpler vehicles such as the Hawkei is already occurring.
The mechanised battalion structure had the section 2IC or a PTE soldier commanding the section vehicle and a Mech CPL commanding the PL COMDs platform. Once a platoon is in the assault, the section and platoon commanders dismount to control the fight. The vehicles are coordinated by the Mech CPL under direction of the PL commander.
Career progression included normal infantry progression but members could specialise as driver/commander the same as you could specialise as a sniper, mortar number or reconnaissance patrolman. A mechanised specialist will still need to maintain rifleman skills so that they can transition as required by unit manning.
Armoured corps operates differently to infantry and integration in an infantry battalion has its challenges including command structures when mounted or dismounted. By maintaining infantry crew members, it negates those integration difficulties and command structures are clearly defined. Additionally, having 343 qualified crew aligns thought processes so they keep their “dismounted hat” on while operating vehicles. They know from experience what is happening on the ground from experience.
(ii) “Bruce Cameron makes a very relevant comment – but I think we are all missing the point of what the Army’s planners are trying to achieve – without stating it – they want Mechanized Infantry units with wheeled armoured vehicles operated by Infantry personnel, and the Armoured Cavalry Regiments with tracked armoured vehicles operated by RAAC personnel – not much has changed in that regard. Infantry will retain their Skills based ECN and Armour will retain their Skills based ECN.
Bruce’s point about ARES Armoured units being issued with Hawkei – a very sensible suggestion – makes you wonder why it came from someone based in Canberra actually….”.
Note: I find the suggestion above interesting … ie. the pl comd dismounts to control the ground attack, while simultaneously controlling the direct fire support from the IFVs. Surely, these are two very different tasks, requiring the complete attention of whoever is responsible for either.
RAAC ARES: Something’s Going On (or is About to)!
Image: Army Technology
The following report is included on the RAAC NSW website. It relates to an address at the 2020 Cambrai dinner (https://raacansw.org.au/News.php):
“Those who gathered appreciated a briefing by Major General Krause [former member of the Corporation advisory board] on the Corps’ future. The possibility of 10LH regaining Regimental status and that the Hawkeye will be both a Regular and Reserve RAAC platform were welcome pieces of intelligence.”
The reference to 10LH is reflected in the unit’s presentation to the RAAC Corporation AGM. This is great news, but the reference to Hawkei being provided to the RAAC ARES is something even bigger; something that has long been awaited.
This has meant that the Armouredadvocates goal that: “All RAAC ARES units would be equipped with a suitable crew operated vehicle (such as Hawkei) and have roles which are in keeping with the conduct of mobile warfare”, has been moved to ‘Pending’
The above site provides access to the reports of all RAAC units, as well as a video update by the Corps RSM.
24 January 2021
Where does Responsibility Lie?’ Part 2
An earlier post ‘Where does Responsibility Lie?’ addressed failings in Government in relation to effectively training the ADF for the operations it was to be deployed on. The email below has been received from DVA; my response follows:
Thank you for your response. Interestingly, I see the AFP mentioned below … when I rang them to report the alleged murder of an enemy soldier in Vietnam, they said “It’s nothing to do with us”. When I rang the Defence whistle-blower number, they said it’s a Department of Defence matter. When I contacted Defence, they said it’s a DVA matter.
Anyway, I see changes have been made. Whereas previously DVA’s educational material to Year 10 students stated that Australian soldiers in Vietnam were guilty of “killing the badly wounded, shooting enemy who had surrendered or who were clearly no threat”; now the material adds that “these are isolated and not typical incidents”. What difference should this make? Should not EVERY murder be investigated and measures introduced into ADF training to stop such a thing happening again?
How does DVA know about the allegations above? No investigation was ever conducted (despite my requests that this be done). It seems to be just hearsay.
The worst part of it all, however, is that, despite knowing that these atrocities had allegedly been conducted … nothing was done to prevent the same thing happening in future wars, despite the fact that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs stated that measures had been put in place to assure this.”
Email from DVA:
“The issue you raise (war crimes) sits outside the remit of the Commissions and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The Department is supportive of Government’s efforts to address the issues raised by the Brereton report. As you may be aware, Government has recently announced the establishment of the Office of the Special Investigator in the Department of Home Affairs portfolio, to investigate matters arising from the report. I note from your correspondence that you have previously corresponded with a number of agencies and ministers, including the IGADF Inquiry, in relation to your concerns. I also note that you have contacted the Safe Zone Support number, I hope you found the service useful.
If you have not already done so, you may wish to raise your concerns with following agencies:
- The Defence Ombudsman (see Defence Force Ombudsman, call: 1300 362 072);
- Department of Defence, Military Justice (see https://www.defence.gov.au/mjs/, call: (02) 6265 2999); and
- The Australian Federal Police (see https://www.afp.gov.au/contact-us/report-commonwealth-crime).
Thank you again for your email and taking the time to raise your concerns with the Department.”
23 January 2021
Capability Gap: ARA Recon/RAAC ARES Part 4
Image: RAACA NSW
Finishing the series of posts reflecting the discussion on the Black Berets website … one contributor said:
“Not withstanding the lack of support, funding etc for our local reserve forces, pretty much every piece of equipment we have is or has been used by reserve/ territorial units elsewhere in the world.
It really depends on what the ADF wants from the GRES, including Navy and Airforce.
The CMF/GRES was formed back in 1948 to fulfill a defence requirement. For many years that has been to mirror the roles of their Regular counterparts. In the last 3-4 decades that requirement has obviously has changed due to changes internationally but more often simply funding constraints.
As eluded to by others more knowledgeable than myself, there seems to be a lack of insight or direction what to do with the almost 29,000 tri-services personnel “on the books”.
Should they be disbanded? How many are ineffective and more importantly why? I admit a tech bias having been around a RAAC ARES unit since the early 70’s (around 9yo).
There has been a lot of restructuring of the Regular ADF, the development of the ACR’s for Army, the LHD’s and AWDDG for Navy and F-35’s for Airforce.
Now that those are pretty much sorted maybe it’s time to deep dive into the GRES and come to terms with do we still need them and if so what roles can they fill and are there capability gaps they are particularly suited for.
Obviously, funding will be raised as an issue somewhere but, as was shown in the taxed pay and limited paid man-days of the 80s, people will still turn up for parade if they have a focus.
Anything like the current indifference by all levels of DoD and ad hoc short-term attempts to re-role personnel because “what else do we do?” isn’t really going to work in the end.”
I replied to say:
“The following is from my response to Eamon’s article on The Cove: “Well written Eamon. I have argued previously for vehicles (not necessarily AFVs) which could enable mobile warfare reconnaissance skills to be developed and maintained, to be allocated to the RAAC ARES. As you know it’s the skills that take the time to instill at all levels. Whether or not this is important, depends on the role of the ARES within the ADF. It’s hard to imagine that mobile warfare skills are not required at this time in terms of Defence contingency plans. This is evidenced by the funding granted to procure the Boxer CRV. BUT … no-one is prepared to state and justify the actual role of the ARES in time of defence emergency. Maybe it’s thought the such a time will not come again. Even the 2020 Defence Reserves Association conference completely side-stepped this fundamental issue. “
The response to which was:
“And there is the problem. No one in senior levels of authority (civilian or military) wants to do their job and designing what and where the reserve contingent fits into the defence structure overall. They can’t even sort out exactly what they want from the regular formations either. The on again / off again 155 SPG acquisition shows that as well as others.”
It is great to see such discussion taking place. If only the RAAC Corporation could take up the gauntlet (but this will never happen, given the fact that they cannot advocate a position which is not in line with that of the HOC. Interestingly, this is not the HOC policy. One might wonder where such direction came from.
22 January 2021
Capability Gap: ARA Recon/RAAC ARES Part 3
Image: The Cove
Following on from earlier, other posts on the Facebook page were:
“Problem is the ASLAV is stuffed. One year on ops was the same as five years peace time training. These are actual figures based on kms driven. They are beyond useful life just like the M113.”
“1AR are trialling LRVs with Hawkei using both to see if it’s viable”.
“Thanks … the concern is why this has to happen. If Boxer had replaced the ASLAV on time, there would be no problem for the ACR recon sqns; but these have had to be reduced to less than half strength, so an interim option has had to be investigated. A gap in the ADF operational capability has been exposed which should never have happened (and won’t be admitted). It’s not the fault of one person or one area, but the system as a whole (including the Defence Minister). Those working in CASG have worked their butts off, but have been let down. Sadly, this is something which had been predicted.”
21 January 2021
One of the Greatest Challenges for the ADF
The following article was published on Army’s Cove recently: ‘effective-communication’ by Kyle Myers (see below). https://cove.army.gov.au/article/effective-communication
My response is copied below:
Hi Kyle, Well done in tackling what is probably one of the most important challenges in the ADF. If there is confusion and no opportunity to clarify, it’s likely that the objective won’t be achieved. Seems to me that the issue of consultation is critical.
I went for a job interview post the Army and one of the questions was: “Well you’ve been in the Army, so you wouldn’t know anything about industrial democracy (ID) … would you? I surprised the panel by informing them that the Army is one of the most ID experienced of all organisations: before planning a task, the participants are canvassed for their ideas; before commencing, the plan is fully explained to all involved; on completion, feedback is sought from participants.
I explained that effective two-way communication is seen as fundamental to success. (I got the job.)
PS. I had to Google ‘HOTO’.
Kyle Myers is a Warrant Officer Class Two in Royal Corps of Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME
20 January 2021
Capability Gap: ARA Recon/RAAC ARES Part 2
Following on from yesterday … posts re the RAAC ARES included the following:
“I attended many RAAC Corps Conferences in the late 1990’s and had 1st hand exposure to the lack of support for the ARES RAAC units.”
“Always wondered about the commitment and support by SOME in high places and the RAAC to Reserve.”
“As the guy who got the job to introduce light cav I can tell you exactly why it happened. It was either re role to some interim platform or disband all of the Reserve RAAC units. There was very little support from ARA RAAC pers so in short the reserve units are lucky to still exist. Our thoughts in doing this was one day a new platform might come along. If it does it’s easier to convert from light cav than have to try and justify creating a unit from scratch. We were then able to sell the capability to Defence Force Renumeration Tribunal and achieve pay group 5.
One of the problems was the fixation some COs had on using bushmaster as a recon vehicle. They missed the whole point of light cav and the PMV which is only an armoured truck.
Also army just doesn’t have enough equipment to go around. Not enough radios not enough B veh and there will now never be enough A veh. Ares crews can operate LAV Abraham and their replacements. The problem is maintenance. The US use civilian tradesman to keep their reserve equivalent equipment going but this is never going to happen is Aust.”
There is no doubt, the RAAC has dropped the ball with respect to the ARES (as has been pointed out in past Blog posts)!
More to follow on this.
19 January 2021
Capability Gap: ARA Recon/RAAC ARES Part 1
Following a discussion on the Black Berets Facebook page, I posted as follows:
“It’s been a fascinating discussion and great to see the interest. Firstly, the LAV situation … we have a serviceability situation which has reduced our recon sqns to two troops of four vehicles each. There is undoubtedly an Army capability gap and this will continue until sufficient vehicles are available to equip squadrons at their full entitlement (and then retrain their members accordingly). The Boxer was to have been in service and units deployable by the end of 2020. There is likely to be a three year lag here.
Secondly, the RAAC ARES … there have been some good articles on Army’s Cove website re the situation. As has been well put here, unless they have a platform which enables them to develop and maintain mobile warfare skills, the capability gap in our defence preparedness will be unprecedented. The Hawkei would be a satisfactory vehicle [once the reliability/safety issues are resolved]… is there any connection here with regard to the report that 1 Armd Regt is involved in user trials (?).”
A response to my question threw new light on the capability gap which exists. Edited version below:
“I Armd Regt are trialling a light cavalry squadron mounted in G-Wagon SRV [Special Reconnaissance Vehicle]. My hope is that it’s similar in structure to how British light cavalry are operating and I look forward to being part of it.
A six car troop with troop HQ mounted in two Hawkeis and the “gun cars” in SRV appears to be the option at the moment. 2CAV have also been using the SRV .
I’m of the opinion that the fundamentals of mounted manoeuvre don’t change, regardless of platform.
I’m also very much of the opinion that the British Army concept of reserve/Yeomanry in a light cavalry role is very workable in an Australian construct (while reserve units with A Vehicles is not something we can support).
18 January 2020
Rubbish Articles That Influence Public Opinion
Image: The Diplomat
The following articles appeared one after the other in my inbox. The worry is that the segments of the population being targeted … believe their content.
‘If China Invades Taiwan, Taipei Plans To Throw A Thousand Tanks At The Beachhead’. Ian Easton, a Taiwan expert with the Project 2049 Institute in Virginia. https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2020/12/09/if-china-invades-taiwan-taipei-plans-to-throw-a-thousand-tanks-at-the-beachhead/?sh=171c51ae6f93
“If China invades Taiwan and succeeds in landing troops on the island country’s southwestern beaches, expect brutal tank battles to help decide the outcome.
The Taiwanese army on paper possesses around 1,200 main battle tanks—480 American-made M-60A3s plus 450 CM-11s and 250 CM-12s. The CM-11 pairs a modified M-48 turret with an M-60 chassis. The CM-12 is an M-48 with the same modified turret as the CM-11.
These tanks are old. The youngest, the M-60s, date from the 1970s. Taipei recently bought 108 new M-1s from the United States for $1.3 billion in order to begin replacing some of its oldest and weariest tanks. The first M-1 isn’t due to arrive until 2023.”
My response: how would China invade Taiwan? Leading with an amphibious landing … surely not. The preliminary moves would be orchestrated by ‘agents’ to sabotage Taiwanese infrastructure such as electricity generation; water supply; telecommunications; and roads by which Taiwanese forces would deploy to landing sites. Electronic hacking would be used to disrupt command and control centres, radars and anti-aircraft systems (all of which would have been pre-planned and tested). Commandos would come ashore during the night prior. Explosives are set against coastal defences adjacent to selected landing points.
The attack would likely be made via an assault landing at a Taiwanese airport, with a diversionary coastal attack. Airborne forces might also be employed. Missiles and drones would be used against political and military headquarters. ‘A thousand tanks’? … they are almost redundant.
No sooner had I drafted the above than another email lobs into my inbox (obviously written by a contemporary of the author above). It states much as I have above. Extracts copied below.
‘Here’s What Could Happen If China Invaded Taiwan: That scenario, while still remote, is being taken more seriously these days.’ By Samson Ellis 8 October 2020. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-10-07/here-s-what-could-happen-if-china-invaded-taiwan
“I am increasingly concerned that a major crisis is coming,” said Ian Easton, senior director at the Project 2049 Institute who wrote “The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia.” “It is possible to envision this ending in an all-out invasion attempt and superpower war. The next five to 10 years are going to be dangerous ones. This flash point is fundamentally unstable.”
Beijing’s optimistic version of events goes something like this: Prior to an invasion, cyber and electronic warfare units would target Taiwan’s financial system and key infrastructure, as well as U.S. satellites to reduce notice of impending ballistic missiles. Chinese vessels could also harass ships around Taiwan, restricting vital supplies of fuel and food.
As Chinese ships speed across the strait, thousands of paratroopers would appear above Taiwan’s coastlines, looking to penetrate defences, capture strategic buildings and establish beachheads through which the PLA could bring in tens of thousands of soldiers who would secure a decisive victory.
17 January 2021
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice, lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the Earth.” William Faulkner, 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature.
“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. ” (Old African saying)
It’s been six years, starting February 2015. A post every day, apart from a few days R&R.
I’ve just had cause to review the Blog as it appears to readers (which is something I hardly ever do).
The first postings were to a series of topics (such as Association News; People; History, Equipment, etc). Daily posts then would advise which topics had been updated. In some ways, I wish that I’d been able to stick with this concept.
It would have enabled better value to be accessed from the various topics. Unfortunately, it was somewhat confusing for the reader and unwieldly for the blogger. I appreciate that the solution was to do a daily blog with subjects being indexed. I’ve started, too late unfortunately, to do the indexing.
Nevertheless, when I look back over six years, there is a lot of RAAC history and social commentary that has been recorded if one scrolls through the Blog. Maybe it will be archived, maybe not.
I intend to finish the Blog and make the last post, following the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of Operation Overlord on 7 June 2021.
Hopefully, by then I will have finished my autobiography and will be free to devote some time to metal detecting. I’ve had about two day’s experience detecting on the south coast beaches, but I think the quest for buried treasure has got hold of me. ‘Pixie’ Webster’s book might have something to do with this.
If anyone would like to take over the Blog (under a different title possibly), I’d be happy to talk. It seems such a pity that there is no other forum to openly discuss RAAC issues on an informed basis.
Tank crews were sent to Vietnam inadequately trained because of a shortcoming in encouraging the open debate of ‘set’ ideas at the time. The more that such discussion is closed down, the more likely it is that the same thing will happen again.
16 January 2021
Future Tank Planning in the UK
New Rheinmetall Tech Demo Tank with 130mm Smoothbore turret.
A recent Blog examined the future for tanks and what the next tank might look like. It’s of interest to see the British Army’s planning as set out in https://www.iiss.org/blogs/military-balance/2020/08/british-army-tank-upgrade-weighing-the-prospects
Rather than a new tank, they plan to upgrade the Challenger 2. The Challenger 3 is intended to serve until at least 2035.
Extracts from the article follow:
… the army plans to replace one of the 3rd Division’s armoured infantry brigades in 2024 with a strike brigade equipped with medium armoured vehicles. As a result, the UK tank fleet will then reduce by about one-third, cutting the number of tanks to around just 145 vehicles.
The army is believed to be particularly concerned about the potential threat from the yet-to-enter-service Russian T14 Armata tank, which has a 125mm gun that fires both kinetic-energy anti-tank rounds and a guided missile. The Russian MBT also has a remote turret and active protection.
Media reports and statements by Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land (RBSL) all indicate that the programme includes fitting a Rheinmetall 120mm smooth-bore gun, compatible with ammunition for the US and German tanks, and allowing further firepower improvements. The British also require a gun-launched anti-tank missile. RBSL has developed a new turret to accommodate this, displayed at the September 2019 Defence and Security Exhibition International in London. Survivability of the tanks is also to be improved with the fitting of a ’soft kill’ active protection system. [Soft-kill refers to electronic or laser like systems, as distinct to conventional munitions.]
The reference to a 120mm smoothbore is countered by another publication:
“Rheinmetall’s 130mm smoothbore technology for MBTs embodies a significant lethality leap in times of increasing threats. Combined with a state-of-the-art auto-loader, this system is the latest evolvement in Rheinmetall’s MBT Advanced Technologies competence.”
This would seem in keeping with a new tank concept, rather than an upgrade.
PS. Just heard that my article on the ‘Tank of the Future’ (an earlier blog post) is to be published on the Army’s ‘Cove’ later this month. It will be interesting to see what discussion it may generate.
15 January 2021
The RAAC/RAEME Partnership
It will be seen from the email below to the RAEME National Assn that I had hoped that RAEME might be officially represented at the National Commemoration of Operation Overlord on 6 June 2021:
“This is the enquiry I made to DVA:
Just wondering what might have been decided re DVA’s position in relation to my suggestion that a RAEME rep be invited as an official guest to the Commemoration (my proposal explained that my tank troop which attacked the enemy position comprised three tanks and an ARV … the RAEME crew on ARV having exactly the same responsibilities as the tank crews).
This is the answer I received:
DVA would not normally extend an official invitation to each individual Corps that served within the units from Operation Overlord or the Battle of Long Khanh. However we would anticipate their attendance clearly at the service as a former members of that particular unit or sub unit.
Sorry that I couldn’t do more. I had hoped that the RAEME HOC might have been invited
PS. My mother is the WAAAF you feature in the Assn header.”
I thought to myself … at least I tried; but the surprise was on me. As seen in the last line, one of the images used by the RAEME Assn in their header, was of my mother. I never knew her in terms of my memory (she died when I was three), however, I was aware that “she had been chosen to be the face of WAAAF recruiting posters”.
14 January 2021
Defence Strategy: The Fundamental Problem as Far as the Australian People Are Concerned (Part II)
The article below was published on 11 Jan 21.
It raised similar issues to those I referred to on the Blog on 7 Jan 21.
My response was:
“We need leaders and institutions that make clear what they stand for on key values and principles which are then translated into policies and programs.” [Quote from Article]
‘I agree completely … but there is another facet to this.
Australians today, distrust what their leaders and institutions tell them.
A major challenge is to improve this level of trust so that commitments made attract the confidence and backing of the nation as a whole.
How to successfully achieve this is well beyond my pay grade.’
Two other readers responded to my comment, one of whom said:’’
“Ask yourself why Jacinda Ardern became a leader with so much support from her people as revealed in the last NZ elections. And not only from her own country, but also world-wide over her compassionate reaction to the Christchurch terrorist attack.
It revolves around authenticity in my view, and showing the people you actually genuinely care about them.”
My response was: “I think we are pressing the same button. As Jack Waterford mentioned today … it’s about restoring faith in the people we vote for. I said ‘trust’; I think these are interchangeable. Jacinda achieved this, ie. the personal qualities that make her a leader, shone through. I believe we are in need of more leadership and less politicisation.”
13 January 2021
RAAC History: The Future
I just had reason to look into the circumstances of the death of one of those on the 1AR Assn Honour Roll. As a result, I emailed the Secretary to say:
“I’ve just been given cause to visit the circumstances involving one of those on the Honour Roll (Killed Accidently).
It occurred to me that it won’t be long before there is no-one who is aware of the nature of their deaths.
I would be prepared to help provide ‘official’ verification of these events; so that a short note could be ‘attached’ to the Roll”.
While I haven’t had a response from the Secretary, this made me wonder as to what the ‘transition process’ might be for website based RAAC ‘history’; given that those who served in Vietnam are nearing their use by dates.
There is an enormous amount of RAAC history tied up in these websites (as a result of the tremendous efforts of those involved over the years) … but should it just fade away?
I mentioned to the RAAC Historian (John Baines) that I believe that such websites can be preserved by the National Library for future historical reference.
John responded to say that he would appreciate this info as “sadly, I have observed the loss of many records over the years from both civil and military institutions as staff change over”.
Those interested might like to go to: pandora.nla.gov.au . It will be seen that under Defence, there is a sub-category: ‘Unit Associations’. Archives are being collected for Assns such as the Australian Army Band Corps, but absolutely nothing for any RAAC unit associations.
I like the following story from the 3 Cav Forum:
“The curator of the Light Horse Museum in Armidale received a letter from an old Light Horseman some years ago.
It turned out that this gentleman was the last man standing from his Sqn.
He had an amount of Sqn funds from his old unit and could not see any way of spending the money, so he asked the curator if he would it for the Museum.
The donor was thanked and the money used for the betterment of the museum.
There will always be a last man standing, but will it be the right man?”
12 January 2021
LAND 400 Phase 2 Part II
Yesterday’s post made me wonder where things were at in terms of the Boxer variants to be procured. We have 121 recon vehicles fitted with the Lance turret … what are the remaining 90 variants made up of?
It took a while and I was only able to ascertain that the 196 to be built here will comprise 121 recon, 10 recovery; 15 command; 29 joint fires and surveillance; and 11 repair. There is also an option for 11 ambulance variants. (As mentioned yesterday, the 25 being delivered from Germany comprise 12 recon and 13 ‘multi-purpose’ variants.)
I was surprised that there were no APC variants. Does this mean that the Phase 3 IFV will fulfill this role, or will recon troops operate without assault troopers (or as per the ARES role, ‘dismounted cavalry scouts’)?
It’s been mentioned in an earlier Blog that the current organisation (Plan Keogh) is for two recon troops per squadron and four ASLAVs per troop. The former CO 2 CAV refused to base troop training on four vehicle troops, insisting that six vehicles must be used (achieving this by reallocating vehicles for specific training periods). He is, of course, quite right, ie. false lessons would otherwise be learnt.
Why four vehicles per troop etc? One has to presume that this is related to ASLAV serviceability. The CRV capability was to have been in service and capable of deployment NLT end 2020. It would seem that the capability gap will extend for at least three years.
It makes you wonder why there is not more public debate regarding RAAC matters. I’ve heard what there is, being referred to as a ‘wasteland’. Pity that the RAAC Corporation will not entertain any such role.
Leaving this aside … it would appear that LAND 400 Phase 2 will provide sufficient recon vehicles to equip three troops per squadron with six vehicles per troop (plus repair pool, SOA, RTC etc). Pity about the capability gap (shuush!) This will be extended by the time taken to effectively retrain units to a level of proficiency using ‘real’ vehicle numbers.
11 January 2021
LAND 400 Phase 2: Where are we?
Image: Defence Connect
Personnel. There is no information that I could find regarding the replacement of Brig Greg McGlone (successor to Ben James) as DG LAND 400. Readers will recall that he left the position suddenly last August (one defence magazine referring to him as having ‘been removed’, but there is no basis to assume this). He was reported to have been temporarily replaced by Sarah Myers, an asst sec in CASG. Who has been appointed (if anyone) seems a mystery.
Two RAAC officers currently hold important positions: Alan Hamley (Project Director) and John Holloway (Project Manager). John was CO 1 Armd Regt 2018-2020.
Delivery. Five of the 25 German built vehicles (12 turreted and 13 multi-purpose) have been delivered to 2/14 LHR (QMI) and crew training is underway. The project covers the procurement of 211 vehicles, 186 of which will be constructed here (commencing in 2022).
Configuration. The Lance 30mm two-man turret is to be fitted to the 133 reconnaissance variants. Electro Optics Systems have been selected to provide the Remote Weapons Station which will be fitted to the multi-purpose variants,
10 January 2021
1 AR Assn Honour Roll (Cont)
Continuing from the previous two posts … another email:
Following on from my earlier emails, the 1AR Honour Roll currently lists:
Killed In Action: WO2 J.A. Bond, WO2 J. Stone, TPR J. Kerr
Died of Wounds: TPR M. Hannaford, WO2 T. Phillips
DOW Post-Vietnam: WO1 L. S. Swarbrick, WO2 N. Lowes, TPR P G. Barwick, TPR R. S. Bellott
Killed Accidentally: LT A. J. Massey, SGT R. Morrison, SGT R. G. Murray, TPR A. M. Jordan, TPR A. Patterson, CFN B. Silver (LAD)
If the AGM decides to continue listing former members of 1 Armd Regt; those who DOW post-Vietnam; and those who were killed accidently, the following matters should be considered:
Title: The current title ‘Dedicated to those 1st Armoured Regiment Soldiers that made the ultimate sacrifice’ suggests that all those listed were serving in 1 Armd Regt at the time of their death. The following would be more correct: ‘Dedicated to former members of 1st Armoured Regiment who made the ultimate sacrifice [possibly include: ‘as a consequence of engaging the enemy’].
Died of Wounds: WO2 N Lowes should be included. He did not die ‘post-Vietnam’, but within the prescribed period of the War. This is why he is listed on the ROH at the AWM.
(i) CPL A M Anderson, mid (1 Armd Regt) should be included. He was WIA at the same time as Tpr P G Barwick; his wounds were as extensive and contributed significantly to his death (as recognised by DVA); and
(ii) Sgt J Stones (3 Cav Regt) should also be included. He suffered very significant wounds in 1969 and these undoubtedly contributed to his death (as recognised by DVA).
9 January 2021
1 AR Assn Honour Roll (2 of 2)
Following on from yesterday, the second email to the Secretary, 1AR Asssn:
“You have written to members to advise that they will be required to select one of the following options at the AGM:
‘The three options including additional information in italics) are as follows:
Option 1 – to include only those officially recognised as either KIA or DOW and those that were killed accidently, whilst serving with the 1st Armoured Regiment. The Honour Roll would include James Kerr (KIA), Mick Hannaford (DOW) and Noel Lowes (recognised by DVA and AWM as having died as a result of his service in Vietnam and within the two  year period. IN addition, the following six (6) members who were killed accidently whilst on military activity with the Regiment: Cfn B Silver (1961), Tpr AM Jordan (1962), Sgt R Morrison (1965), Lt AK Massey (1982), Tpr A Patterson (1984) and Sgt RG Murray (1986).
Option 2 – as for Option 1 but also to include a separate listing for former members of the Regiment who were either KIA or DOW whilst serving with other units. This includes Cpl P Clements (KIA with 1 APC Sqn ), WO2 TD Phillips (DOW with AATTV ), Cfn D Borlace (KIA with 3 Cav Regt ), Cpl P Malone [KIA with 3 Cav Regt ), WO2 JA Bond (KIA with AATTV 0, Sgt J Stones (DOW with 3 Cav Regt ) and Lcpl J McCarthy (KIA with 3 Cav Regt [1971). It is possible that there may be additional members who were either KIA or DOW with other units in Korea, Vietnam or any other conflict since that period in time.
Option 3 – as for Option 2 but also to include a separate listing for all those who had been entitled to a DVA official commemoration. However, the inclusion of such members would be subject to the approval of their NOK. Known additions include WO1 L Swarbrick, Tpr R Barwick, Tpr R Bellott and Cpl A Anderson. However, there are many hundreds of Vietnam veterans, as well as veterans from other conflicts who have died from conditions such as cancer, etc that the DVA have acknowledged that their deaths may be attributed to their accepted conditions. DVA Official Commemoration does not mean that they died of their wounds. [Neither does listing on the AWM ROH, as discussed.]
A different ‘take’ on these three options is provided below for information:
Given that those members of 1 Armd Regt listed on the Honour Roll at the AWM are those who died either from any reason during their active service (enemy action, illness, accident) or from service-related consequences within the prescribed period, it makes sense for those who members who died as a result of an accident during training to be listed in the same way on the 1AR Assn Honour Roll.
Two questions remain. The first is whether or not members who died as a consequence of their active service, but after the prescribed period for the War in which they served, should also be listed. These people are recognised by DVA by virtue of an entitlement to an Official Commemoration. Given, the extent, it might be decided that listing all those who suffered from PTSD or cancer (for example) goes beyond the purpose of the Honour Roll. It might, therefore, be found that the Roll should only list those who sustained wounds while engaging the enemy which subsequently contributed to their death (like the US Vietnam Wall).
The final question is … should former members of 1 Armd Regt who died as a consequence of their active service with another unit, be listed on the 1AR Assn Honour Roll (as above being limited to death from enemy action)? The answer to this question might be considered in light of the fact that 1 Armd Regt has not been on active service since 1971. But former members have served with other units on active service. While the majority of the current membership is unlikely to know those who served with other units in Vietnam, they are likely to know their contemporaries who served in more recent conflicts.
You also advised members in the last newsletter that:
“The following members, listed on the Honour Roll were not serving with, or posted to, 1st Armoured Regiment at the time of their death: a. WO2 JA (Chesty) Bond (RAAC) – KIA whilst serving with AATTV b. WO2 TD (Tom) Phillips (RAAC) – DOW whilst serving with AATTV c. WO2 J Stone (RAINF) – DOW whilst serving with AATTV There also appears to be some confusion as to whether the listing for ‘Stone’ should actually be for Sgt J Stones RAAC who may have DOW after being Wounded in Action (WIA) whilst serving with B Sqn 3 Cav Regt. It should be noted, however, that the AWM Roll of Honour does not have a listing for Sgt Stones and therefore he was not either KIA or officially categorised as DOW. In fact, James Stones did not pass away until 1991, which is well outside the two (2) period used by the DVA”.
I’m sure if you were to ask for advice, the apparent confusion between WO2 Stone and Sgt J Stones could be explained. It is my understanding that the former Corps transferred to go to Vietnam with AATTV. The latter, who is referred to [at top] as having served with 3 Cav in 1971, was actually wounded on 22 October 1969 (and did not return to Vietnam).”
8 January 2021
1AR Assn Honour Roll (1 of 2)
I’ve been lobbying for the Honour Roll to be corrected for a long time. To their credit, the current C’tee is working to this end. Unfortunately, they’re not aware of all the facts. The following email is self-explanatory:
I was too quick re my earlier email as there are other factors involved. I will try to explain in this and the following email. You’ve advised members that:
‘It should also be noted that the Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour includes around 101,000 names of members who were either killed in action or formally recognised by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) as DOW. DVA have recognised over 300,000 members for official commemoration.‘
This is wrong. The names of the AWM Honour Roll are those of the soldiers whose death met the criteria determined by the AWM Council. It means that anyone who died while posted to a unit on active service, or subsequently died as a consequence of their service within the prescribed period of the conflict, is included on the ROH.
It also means that someone who is killed in a traffic accident while on R&R is listed, as are those who died of illness or accident during active service are listed. It is incorrect to suggest that KIA or DOW are the sole criteria for the AWM ROH.
DVA had nothing to do with the above criteria. Those who are entitled to official commemoration by DVA have (i) died subsequent to the prescribed period of the conflict in which they served and (ii) been assessed to have died either directly or indirectly as a consequence of their service.
The US Vietnam Memorial Wall takes a different approach. To be listed, you have had to have been KIA or DOW sustained in action. Anyone who dies of service-related illness or accident, is listed on a separate roll held within the Wall. I have spoken with those who administer the Memorial and it takes an enormous amount of time to verify that someone sustained wounds and these subsequently contributed to their death. They are committed to accurately recording the human consequences of the War, however, particularly those who gave their lives engaging the enemy.`
Finally … the AWM state that the ROH lists “Over 102,000” names.
(Time spent here is more than justified … as I’ve stated previously, this is the one thing that the Assn must get right.)
7 January 2020
Defence Strategy: The Fundamental Problem as Far as the Australian People Are Concerned
The following article was recently published: https://johnmenadue.com/continuing-strategic-dependence-on-the-us-or-strategic-independence-for-australia/
Submissions are invited regarding the topic: “Continuing strategic dependence on the US or strategic independence for Australia?”.
I couldn’t resist a response:
“Australia is too closely beholden to America with respect to its Defence and Foreign policies. There’s no need to refer to ‘apron strings’ … everyone knows the topic. But why would such a view be so common?
The reason … everyone is expected to trust our politicians, intelligence agencies and senior defence officers. But we only see some of them some of the time and when we do, we don’t get to ask questions. Our ‘trust’ has seen Australia involved in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Will this be the same in the future?
The structure of our society is flawed and unless the fundamental problem is addressed, things will continue as they always have.
There is a logic to decision making related to Defence strategy: intelligence staff identify the threat and estimate the warning time; military planners determine contingency plans and consequent force structure, readiness states, and need for the support of allied nations; defence staff determine manufacturing and stocking policies in accord with lead times. This is all done on trust as far as Australians are concerned. Should this be any different?
Intelligence briefings, warning times, contingency plans, lead times etc are all highly confidential (top secret even). Such information can’t be made public. But, a nation’s commitment to war requires the support of its people.
How can ‘trust’ be improved to the extent necessary so that our military commitments have the confidence and backing of the nation as a whole? This is the fundamental question that has to be answered. Traditional responses such as requiring greater oversight of decision making by Parliament, have not worked to date. It is hard to imagine a solution which fits within the democratic framework that currently exists and would be supported.
What if it was to be suggested that a panel of eminent Australians be chosen to act as an interface between politicians and society … would this work? Undoubtedly not (just imagine the arguments related to the selections of panel members!). This is interesting, I can nominate many Australians who I would trust completely in such a role.
So, we have democracy on one hand, but are hampered by it on the other. Could a referendum on any proposed military commitment be the answer? How could it, given the national security implications associated with the arguments for and against?
We could ask that the PM, Minister for Defence etc to brief the Australian people fully on the circumstances involved … more so than has happened in the past; but in the end, it’s the Government which has to be able to act decisively. The fundamental issue remains … how to create a level of ‘trust’ in those who act on our behalf?
I think it’s a task well above my pay scale.
6 January 2021
Government Responsibility for War Crimes II
Image: Canberra Times
It was reported on the ABC on 4 Jan 21 that:
“A former New South Wales magistrate who once served as a war crimes prosecutor at The Hague says those higher up the Army’s “chain of command” must be investigated over alleged unlawful killings in Afghanistan.
Graham Blewitt has told the ABC [that] securing convictions over the disturbing findings of last year’s Brereton inquiry would not be easy because Australian police did not currently have the appropriate expertise.”
They got it wrong before and they’re getting it wrong again. Talking about the difficulty of securing convictions is way off the mark. A focus on this will miss the point completely.
The following letter has been sent to the Canberra Times:
It was reported on 4 January 2021 that the Federal Government’s new Office of the Special Investigator has formally begun its work. References were also made to the difficulty of securing convictions.
It is my belief that a focus solely on convictions is wrong. Equally (probably more) important is identifying why the Government failed to introduce meaningful measures in Army units’ preparation for war in Afghanistan to ensure that what was known to have happened in Vietnam (as evidenced by the Government’s own information to our schoolchildren), was not able to occur again. In 2005, I received assurance from the Minister for Defence that this was the case. Will the Minister today give the same assurance?
5 January 2021
Government Responsibility for War Crimes
“God knows the truth, but waits” (Tolsoy) … ‘until honest men speak’ (Cameron)
An article by Graham Cornes was published in the Adelaide Advertiser/ SA Weekend on 4 Dec 20. It is copied at the end, as the Advertiser requires a subscription fee to read on-line. My response is as per that below:
“It was the “no prisoners” order which led to the murder described in this book: https://regimental-books.com.au/product/contact-wait-out-a-vietnam-diary/) This was also 7RAR [the unit Cornes served with].
When I queried this account, the ‘regimental brotherhood’ went into action and I was invited to meet. I pointed out that I was not trying to bring the battalion into disrepute, simply trying to get the Government to commit to revising training so that such things could never happen again. The Minister for Defence assured me that this had been done. I’ve provided all this to the current Inquiry.
DVA provides information to our children’s schools which states that these things happened in Vietnam. Without any doubt, the Government is culpable for not having acted responsibly once it was aware of the facts.
But there is an inherent weakness in the way our society functions. I first realised this while writing the history of Australian tank operations in Vietnam. We were sent to Vietnam inadequately trained because of failings in the nature of the Army’s structure and ability to learn and adapt.
The Rule of Law is paramount to a civilised society. One of its tenets is that an individual cannot be held accountable for failings of the State in which he belongs. I share the guilt referred to by Graham (ie. I feel that I should have done more to ensure action by Government), but there is only so much that an individual can do in a society such as ours. It has failed its citizens before and continues to do so today.”
An incident in Vietnam 50 years ago left Graham Cornes wracked with guilt, and he says soldiers accused of war crimes must be judged differently than civilians.
Inaugural Adelaide coach Graham Cornes has revealed he witnessed members of his platoon hatch a plan to kill an unarmed, elderly man who had inadvertently strayed into a free-fire zone in Vietnam. In a column for SA Weekend magazine, he uses the incident to explain why soldiers accused of breaking rules of engagement should not be judged by civilian laws. Here is his column:
‘Make sure you bury the ID card”. The words have stayed with me ever since, and will forever more. My platoon commander was a good man; an intelligent man, a full lieutenant and a graduate of the military academy at Duntroon. They selected only the best to lead infantry platoons in South Vietnam. The voice inside me screamed, “Noooo, you can’t do that.” But he was an officer, I was a private soldier, a minion in the system. You had no voice. I stayed silent.
It was late in the afternoon and our platoon was setting up its perimeter for a night harbour – inside an overgrown rubber plantation. We were operating just inside a free-fire zone, an area from which civilians were excluded and anyone encountered could be regarded as enemy. Unfortunately, there were no lines on the ground to mark the boundary. In the distance, across a clearing adjacent to the rubber plantation, was an old man and his water buffalo who had strayed into the free-fire zone. He clearly posed no threat but his presence excited our section commander, a career soldier who had progressed to the rank of corporal.
Somehow he convinced the platoon commander that the old man was indeed a threat and as he was technically inside the free-fire zone, we were within our rights to “dispatch” him. He hastily assembled a small squad and as he eagerly led them through the perimeter, the platoon commander gave that order: “Make sure you bury the ID card.” The absence of a weapon and the presence of an ID card would make it difficult to claim he was an enemy combatant. Now, this story did have a happy ending because the old man, perhaps sensing the danger, slipped away out of the free-fire zone and the squad, somewhat disappointedly, returned to our defensive position. I feel guilty now as my response at the time was internal only. The army bludgeoned you to blind obedience and compliance. I didn’t think to protest outwardly.
What makes good men do bad things? This barbaric underbelly of our character is never more evident than when soldiers go to war. The ADF inquiry into the allegations of atrocities committed by elements of our special forces in Afghanistan will rake over the scars that many combat veterans try hard to conceal. In some cases, the wounds have never healed and the waves of guilt have never subsided. If the same ethical microscope had been placed over our actions in Vietnam, or indeed any other conflict, how would we compare?
We knew right from wrong and understood the rules of engagement. Why then did the order filter down one day from our company commander that we were not to take prisoners? It followed that one of my closer army mates was leading a section in pursuit of an enemy group with which they had just engaged.
When he eventually radioed his sitrep (Situation Report) back to company headquarters he was stunned by the response: “We have one enemy KIA (Killed in Action) and two captured,” he reported. The company commander immediately grabbed the handset. “No you haven’t. You’ve got three KIA,” he barked. Fifty years later, how can any civilised person make sense of or rationalise that. “Take no prisoners,” we were ordered. It’s a great battle cry for a footy team but much more serious when it’s a real war and real lives are involved.
There was another disturbing incident, involving a platoon from our company which also resulted in an enemy soldier’s tragic demise. The forward scout, advancing stealthily and carefully, as was his special skill, came across a lone Vietcong soldier asleep under a tree, his AK47 weapon in his lap. Quietly, the section lined up, then called on the soldier to rouse him. As soon as the unfortunate wretch stirred the soldiers opened fire with full and gruesome effect. The M60 machine gun, M16 and SLR rifles of an infantry section can inflict deadly and withering fire. So it was: another dead enemy soldier for the battalion’s tally.
The difficulty facing any soldier in a conflict in which the enemy does not wear a uniform and can melt inconspicuously into the local populace, is identifying from where the danger will come. The rules of engagement are distorted and the lines of morality are blurred. Who to trust? Who, though seemingly innocent, presents a deadly threat? The tragedy of innocent victims and civilians caught in the crossfire of liberating forces and insurgent terrorists is played out every day in war-torn regions throughout the world.
It is to these regions that we send our Australian troops. These are elite forces, carefully selected through the process of rigorous testing and psychological analysis; warriors in the true sense of the word. Tough and hard, it is the system that has made them ruthless and, whether they operate at home or abroad, they make Australia safer. Australia has shaped and created these fighting machines. If they have transgressed the rules of war, as soldiers in all previous conflicts surely have, Australia must share their guilt.
The allegations of our soldiers’ actions in Afghanistan, before any defence has been mounted, have drawn widespread condemnation. Our leaders, both military and political, have been quick to wade in with damning and self-righteous accusations but some do so without fully understanding the pressures under which combat soldiers operate, and the mind-turning impact those pressures have.
It’s 24 hours of heightened alert and ever present danger, either real or imagined. There’s no relief except for those few days of respite at the end of an operation but even then there’s a dark cloud at the back their mind. Then, all too often, they lose a mate under violent circumstances or are severely wounded themselves.
We prepare soldiers for war with rigorous, sometimes tortuous training. They pass all the courses but can anything prepare them for real combat? You can’t replicate, or predict even, the real dangers or the constant pressures. Depending on the length of an operation, the combat soldier is always tired through sleep deprivation, always dirty and always hungry.
In summer, thirst is a constant; in winter it’s the cold or wet. Sometimes, it’s even worse than cold. Such privation adds to the stress and goes some way to explaining why poor decisions can be made.
The Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, [could not have been more damning or accusatory in his public apology](https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/national/war-crimes-brereton-inquiry-into-australias-special-forces-in-afghanistan-to-be-released/news-story/e571103ef599672907225e91b0486acb). No names were mentioned but the impression is the accused soldiers have been found guilty before any further investigation. An elite soldier, General Campbell cuts an austere figure. He wears the Infantry Combat Badge on his left breast, was a troop and squadron commander in the SAS and led 2RAR in its deployment to East Timor.
He has had a stellar staff career, culminating in his promotion to General and appointment as Chief of the Defence Force. Even though East Timor was not the torrid deployment that those in the Middle East were, he should know the pressures under which soldiers operate.
The report by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security said: “None of these alleged crimes was committed in the heat of battle.” That is a trite comment which exacerbates the accusations. These soldiers don’t punch a clock and knock on and off. The term “fog of war” is a term often used to explain soldiers’ brutal behaviour towards their enemy or to explain the atmosphere that surrounds soldiers on operation in hostile environments. The Inspector-General may dismiss it but the fog of war is real and does not swirl only in times of battle. The fog of war never lifts.
Yes, good men do bad things and they will be punished, deservedly so, but who are we to judge if we haven’t been exposed to the same dangers? The escalating rate of veterans affected by post-traumatic stress and suicide is fast becoming a national emergency, and can be directly linked to their combat experience. It is a worthy, honourable profession of which any combat soldier should be justifiably proud, but soldiering comes at some psychological cost.
Further, revelations of their behaviour and the excoriation of those troops from Afghanistan will continue to assail the self-esteem of all veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs does a great job and has significant resources, but not every veteran has the acumen to access them.
I’ve read the redacted report and seen some of the vision, but, as confronting as that may be, I cannot yet bring myself to condemn those soldiers.
They will surely face a court martial, and very possibly be dismissed from the army. If they have already retired they may face criminal charges. However, it is far too simplistic for staff officers back in Canberra to assign blame, to pass judgment and deflect responsibility. If war crimes have been committed, the frontline troops who have committed them cannot be made solely responsible. The system that shaped them and then empowered them must share some of that responsibility.
A notorious soldier once said: “Soldiers at war are not to be judged by civilian rules.” His name? Harry “Breaker” Morant, who was executed by firing squad in 1902 after a British court martial convicted him of war crimes committed during the Boer War. Our Australian soldiers who stand accused of similar transgressions of the rules of engagement must not be treated with the same summary disdain.
4 January 2021
An Autobiography (Not a Memoir) II
Following on from yesterday where I mentioned the sub-title of my autobiography (‘Time Spent Trying to do the Right Thing’) … what will the subjects of the final part of my book be; ie. the period of my retirement?
It was while writing the history of Australian tank operations in Vietnam, that I first realised the inherent weaknesses in the way our society functions. We were sent to Vietnam inadequately trained because of failings in the nature of the Army’s structure and ability to learn and adapt.
My driver should never have been wounded. Three squadrons had served before us and other drivers had been wounded in exactly the same manner. Yet those of us in C Sqn in 1971 weren’t aware of this. Nobody had taken the time to connect the dots … to identify weakness, highlight it and ensure training embraced it. We all had to learn from our own experience, without any benefit from that of others who had gone before.
So, some of the experiences I will recount will include:
Writing the history of 1 Armd Regt in Vietnam and my dealings with the AWM (the good and the not-so good);
Getting the Coral-Balmoral Battle Honour emblazoned and the error on the 1 Armd Regt Standard corrected;
Overturning the cold-hearted restriction which meant that the Army Combat Badge could not be presented to NOK of those KIA;
Campaigning for the withdrawal of the: RSL’s proposal for an MOU with the Vietnamese Communist Party; and DVA proposal for lapel badge with crossed Australian and Socialist Republic of Vietnam flags (unless, in both cases, Vietnam was to improve its inhuman treatment of our former allies who served in the ARVN and their families);
Lobbying to have a Centurion tank exhibited at the AWM;
Taking action with respect to the Conflict of Interest created when Rheinmetall ‘donated’ $25,000 to 1 Armd Regt (by masking the payments through the 1AR Assn) at the same time it was tendering for LAND 400 Phase 2 (vehicles which 1 Armd Regt would operate);
Helping with efforts to have failings of C’tee members and breaches of regulations governing the management of the 1AR Assn acknowledged and corrected; resulting in a new Constitution, revised annual reporting standards, and full advice to members re C’tee decisions (and my expulsion); and
Striving before the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal to have supporting arms involved in Operation Hammersley included with 8RAR in terms of the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation.
3 January 2020
An Autobiography (Not a Memoir)
I’m not sure that it will be accepted by a publisher, but we’ll give it a go. An early draft pf my preface is copied below:
“Not Enough Self-Sacrifice for a VC!”: Time Spent Trying to do the Right Thing.
“Each person’s life is important, so why should I think that anyone would be interested in mine? Everyone’s experiences hold value for those going forward, but not all have the opportunity to record them. I consider myself lucky in this respect.
Those of us who do, must ensure that we are not writing to enhance our own egos, but because there is an essential benefit for others in making our story known.
Some of the narrative deals with my time as a tank troop leader in Vietnam and my later service in the Army (as the title suggests); but this is not the focus of the account. The sub-title probably expresses my intent more than anything else.
It was while writing the history of Australian tank operations in Vietnam, that I first realised the inherent weaknesses in the way our society functions. We were sent to Vietnam inadequately trained because of failings in the nature of the Army’s structure and ability to learn and adapt.
If I was not to record my experiences, I would not meet my personal expectations in terms of ‘doing the
right thing’ (something which I believe is central to self-respect).
My tank driver should never have been wounded. Three squadrons had served before us and other drivers had been wounded in exactly the same manner. Yet those of us in C Sqn in 1971 weren’t aware of this. Nobody had taken the time to connect the dots … to identify weakness, highlight it and ensure
training embraced it. We all had to learn from our own experience, without any benefit from that of others.
The Rule of Law is paramount to a civilised society. One of its tenets is that an individual cannot be held accountable for failings of the State in which he belongs. I feel guilt for not having done more to
achieve social justice, however, there is only so much that an individual can do in a society such as ours. It has failed its citizens before and continues to do so today. Maybe this narrative will help change things for the better.
In anticipation of research associated with the above, I’ve been doing an Index for each day’s post (found at the end of Doing the Right Thing VI and VII). Every post since 16 March 2020 is indexed by topic.
I hope that my memoir doesn’t provide too much justification for defamation action; but I have a lot of stories to tell and I intend to do so!
2 January 2020
Code of Conduct Versus Whistle-blower Policy
What if we have an Association has a Constitution which states that any member who brings the Assn into disrepute will have his membership cancelled. The member becomes aware of Assn practices which are unlawful. The member raises the issues with the C’tee, but they decline to respond. The member reports the issues to the Regulator and the Assn is compelled to change its practices. The member’s life membership was not renewed..
I’ve been advised that I have grounds to take action, however, this would not fix the matter. The problem is that whistle-blower provisions are not required to be included in the Constitutions of associations incorporated in Australia.
Seems to me that this is something long overdue. Example of provisions which have been incorporated in company policies are copied below:
This Code of Conduct and Whistle-blower Policy aims to: • provide a framework of principles applicable to all officers, employees and agents for conducting business and fostering relations with other employees, shareholders, customers, the community and other stakeholders; • promote a consistent understanding of, and approach to, the standards of ethical behaviour, including the ethical approach to actual or apparent conflicts of interests between personal and professional relationships; • raise awareness of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and through this endeavour to avoid any real or perceived misconduct; • promote prompt internal reporting of violations and suspected violations; and • outline how the Company will deal with violations and suspected violations.
The following principles apply to Whistle-blowing: 1. The Company will provide employees and contractors with the infrastructure by which they can safely disclose reportable conduct 2. All employees and contractors making disclosures must act in good faith – acting honestly, ethically and in the best interest of the Company. 3. The Company encourages former employees, contractors and Auditors to make a disclosure under this policy if they chose but the protections under this policy will be limited to protecting identify only 4. The Company will ensure employees and contractors who disclose reportable conduct, as well as those assisting or participating in an investigation are not victimised or disadvantaged. 5. The Company will regularly review all disclosures to ensure that no adverse consequences have been applied as a result of making a disclosure. 6. All employees and contractors have the right to communicate with regulators at any time, in relation to any concern within the scope of this policy. 7. All investigations undertaken under this policy must be conducted in accordance with the principles of fairness and natural justice. 8. Investigations must be timely, conducted impartially and comprehensively documented. 9. Each disclosure will have a unique identifier which will be provided to the whistle-blower so they can liaise with the relevant WPO or seek feedback. 10. Where possible the outcomes of all disclosures will be provided to the whistle-blower.
1 January 2021
Looking After Each Other II
Image: Daily Mail
Welcome to 2021!
What would be appropriate for the first post of Doing the Right Thing VII?
Following on from the Blog on 30 December 2020, I believe that there could be no better aspiration for the year ahead, than that of helping each other. There are many opportunities.
I’m organising a dinner for those in C Sqn 1 Armd Regt in 1971 (Vietnam) in June 2021. This corresponds with a National Commemoration for Operation Overlord, being organised by DVA.
Financial assistance for those organising functions such as mine is available from DVA. Recipients have to be members of Incorporated Associations. I asked DVA how an individual could qualify. No probs they said, just ask an Incorporated Assn to ‘sponsor’ you.
I asked the 1AR Assn. They said that a LAD Reunion had recently been proposed and they were sorry, but they felt that they could only help with one such application each year. (This, despite being assured that there would be no work needed on the part of any member of the C’tee.)
What funding was being sought? Four hundred dollars for two wreaths to be laid at the AWM in honour of Andy Anderson and Phil Barwick and some assistance with printing costs for menus, name tags etc. I asked the RAACA NSW, but they responded to say that ‘it’s not our responsibility!’. (I was a member up until this time.)
I then asked the TPI Assn. Too easy, they said … and the application was forwarded to DVA through them. It might not be approved, but at least we’ve had the opportunity to ask.
Why is it that some people can’t see their real responsibilities? There are probably plenty of RAAC personnel that hate my guts, but why refuse to offer assistance for a function intended to benefit 100 former RAAC veterans that they don’t even know? Is it too hard to distinguish between the two?
Hopefully 2021 will be a bit different.
1 Armoured Regiment Association
1 Jan 21: ‘Looking After Each Other II’
2 Jan 21: ‘Code of Conduct Versus Whistle-Blower Policy’
8 Jan 21: ‘1AR Assn Honour Roll (1 of 2)’
9 Jan 21: ‘1 AR Assn Honour Roll (2 of 2)‘
10 Jan 21: ‘1 AR Assn Honour Roll (Cont)’
3 Feb 21: ‘The 1AR Assn Going Forward’
5 Feb 21: ‘The 1AR Assn Going Forward: Part 2.’
3 Jan 21: ‘Autobiography (Not a Memoir)’
4 Jan 21: ‘Autobiography (Not a Memoir) II’
Australian Defence Force (ADF)
21 Jan 20: ‘One of the Greatest Challenges for the ADF’
17 Jan 21: ‘The Blog’
Australian War Memorial (AWM)
1 Mar 21: ‘The Australian War Memorial’
3 Mar 21: ‘The Australian War Memorial Part 2’
7 Jan 21: ‘The Fundamental Problem as Far as the Australian People Are Concerned’
14 Jan 21: ‘The Fundamental Problem as Far as the Australian People Are Concerned (Part II)’
18 Jan 21: ‘Rubbish Articles That Influence Public Opinion’
15 Feb 21: ‘Defence Preparedness’
16 Feb 21: ‘Defence Preparedness 2’
17 Feb 21: Defence Preparedness 3′
9 Feb 21: ‘Helping Others’
25 Feb 21: ‘Feather in the Envelope’
26 Feb 21: ‘Feather in the Envelope’ Part 2′
2 Mar 21: ‘Leadership’
11 Jan 21: ‘LAND 400 Phase 2: Where are we?’
12 Jan 21: ‘LAND 400 Phase 2 Part II’
13 Jan 21: ‘RAAC History: The Future’
15 Jan 21: ‘The RAAC/RAEME Partnership’
16 Jan 21: ‘Future Tank Planning in the UK’
19 Jan 21: ‘Capability Gap: ARA Recon/RAAC ARES Part 1’
20 Jan 21: ‘Capability Gap: ARA Recon/RAAC ARES Part 2’
22 Jan 20: ‘Capability Gap: ARA Recon/RAAC ARES Part 3’
23 Jan 21: ‘Capability Gap: ARA Recon/RAAC ARES Part 4’
26 Jan 21: ‘RAAC Matters’
27 Jan 21: ‘Distinguished Conduct Medal’
28 Jan 21: ‘The Distinguished Conduct Medal Part 2’
31 Jan 21: ‘The Tank Capability of the Future’
1 Feb 21: ‘The Tank Capability of the Future Part 2’
2 Feb 21: ‘Future AFVs’
6 Feb 21: ‘The Tank Capability of the Future Part 3’
13 Feb 21: ‘New AFV Simulation Centre.’
14 Feb 21: ‘$235 million Armoured Fighting Vehicle Facilities Program’
18 Feb 21:’Laser Weapons’
20 Feb 21: ‘The Tank Capability of the Future Part 4’
21 Jan 21: ‘Seniority of RAAC Units: Part 3’
23 Feb 21: ‘The Seniority of RAAC Units Part 4’
24 Feb 21: ‘Seniority of RAAC Units Part 5’
28 Feb 21: ‘The RAAC Family’
25 Jan 21: ‘RAAC ARES: Something’s Going On (or About to)!’
29 Jan 21: ‘Role of the RAAC ARES’
10 Feb 21: ‘RAAC ARES: Making us Proud’
11 Feb 21: ‘RAAC ARES: Making us Proud: Part 2’
12 Feb 21: ’10 LH Regiment’
8 Feb 21: ‘Organisation: 50th Anniversary Commemoration Operation Overlord’
5 Jan 21: ‘Government Responsibility for War Crimes’
6 Jan 21: ‘Government Responsibility for War Crimes II’
24 Jan 21: ‘Where does Responsibility Lie?’ Part 2’
7 Feb 21: ‘Where Does Responsibility Lie?’
22 Feb 21: ‘War Crimes Revisited: Part 2’
27 Feb 21: ‘The Rule of Law?’