Friday, October 29, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
A Local Hero:
War in any form is a very traumatic experience, that remains with a soldier for life. To him, his first war is generally his worst. Commandos are a specialist type of infantry unit, their role as one which took them into practically every area, to do every conceivable type of job. This is the area of New Guinea, the soldier of one of our very own local lads. Corporal Keith “Blue” M of the 2/3 Independent (Commando) Company.
It was Anzac Day 1943 & 2/3 were feeling satisfied with two successful raids against the Japanese on the Komiatum Track. When on the 28th April, Lieutenant C was ordered to take a patrol & raid the Komiatum Track again, to draw the Japanese away from the Bobdubi Ridge.
As the patrol neared the junction of Stephens Track, they spotted an enemy position. Lieutenant C decided to move closer to assess the enemy strength. He ordered the patrol to wait & took four men, Sergeant C, Corporal (Blue), Private Fred & Private Joe with him to gather the information. Unknown to the patrol, the Japanese had spotted our troops & were waiting for them to get closer. When Lieutenant C’s reconnaissance party moved up, Fred, forward scout at the time, spotted a booby trap trip wire & yelled “BOOBY TRAP” as he dived over the ridge.
The Japanese opened fire with a machine gun burst. Joe fell dead. Sergeant C managed to escape, Blue was hit & rolled down a steep slope, Lieutenant C escaped by jumping down a slope where he found the wounded Blue, his leg shattered by the bullet. He did what he could to make him comfortable, left him his tommy gun & rations, then headed back for help to carry him out. Meanwhile Corporal L was waiting with the remainder of the patrol heard the Japanese open fire, decided to go to Lieutenant C’s aid; he took the medical orderly Roly G, with them. As they forged ahead through the jungle, they saw four enemy soldiers examining Joe’s body. Lamb fired his tommy gun killing them. They found no trace of Lieutenant C, Sergeant C, Blue or Fred. Hoping they had survived & were moving back to join him, Corporal L pulled back before the enemy could outflank his party.
Lieutenant C heard the patrol attacking but could not link up with them (they had already withdrawn) he decided to go back & tell Blue that he had to go all the way back to their appointed rendezvous. In his effort to find the patrol after their engagement, he had wandered through a lot of jungle & had difficulty finding his way back to Blue.
Suddenly the silence was shattered by a long burst of Tommy gun fire, followed by a burst of enemy fire including light machine guns. He assumed Blue had been found & killed as the tommy gun was now silent. He could not investigate as he was unarmed, he had given his weapon to Blue & he continued on his way to the nominated RV (rendezvous).
His patrol was waiting to see if any survivors made it back & were pleased to see him. He told them about “Blue” & his assumed death, the party then returned to Wells OP which had been their jumping off point for this operation.
Their commanding Officer Major W, was unhappy about the assumption that “Blue” was dead. He ordered a search to be made for him. Lieutenant C returned with a patrol to the general area of the ambush. He & his section were moving cautiously through the jungle when they heard a familiar voice “Don’t take life so seriously, there are no Japs around for miles”. It was Blue. He was dragging himself along the track backward using the palms of his hands & the seat of his pants, with an improvised splint of broken sticks tied together with a lawyer vine on his wounded leg. He was not a pretty sight. His arms & shoulders were red raw & his good leg was practically worn to the bone. The flies had blown his knee which was badly shattered, but he was still able to crack a joke with his mates & thank them for coming to get him.
All members soon heard of Cpl Blue’s tremendous feat of endurance: with no food or water, he gathered moisture from moss & leaves to stay alive. He had been abandoned & presumed dead, it was unlikely that anyone would venture along the native track, even the natives had been withdrawn from the area. He had to travel on the track, it was his only chance. When he came to fallen logs blocking the track, he would have to climb over, go round or dig under them, all the time dragging that wounded shattered leg.
He had no modern day beacons to signal his position & if he had tried to light a fire, as a smoke signal, it would only have brought the enemy. The Medical Orderly, Roly G, said that he had even set his leg so well that it never needed resetting.
Everyone was full of admiration for this display of courage & endurance. Blue had only one person to thank for his rescue & that was Major W, who had sent the patrol back to search for him.
Blue’s early years were spent in Camperdown, then Port Campbell. He showed promise at football & moved to Melbourne where he played a few games for St Kilda. Unable to find employment he returned to Port Campbell. He was able to secure a position as a Herd Tester at Ellereslie. When the war began he enlisted in the AIF then the 2/3rd Commandos. He shipped out with the 2/3rd to New Caledonia, but did not see any action, they returned to Australia, sharpened their training & sailed for New Guinea, they flew into Wau & straight into action, to save the airfield, after Wau they assisted in driving the enemy back to the coast. It was while driving the enemy back that Blue was injured, he was carried to Wau & flown to Australia, he did not return to his unit (the 2/3rd Commandos). After the war he obtained a Soldier Settlement Block at Ellerslie, married J & they had three children. When Blue & J retired from the farm, they bought a house in Thompson street & live their til their deaths in 1996.
The last line is incorrect - Grandma died 16th April 1987 @ around 10am - I was in year 11 Maths & I remember a cold shiver came over me & I remarked to my friend at the time that I thought my Grandma had just died. She'd gone into surgery for a ruptured stomach ulcer & died on the operating table. I didn't find out until I got home from school that day. She was very special to me & both Grandma & Grandpa Mc were the first adults who treated both my sister & I not as children, but just as people & equals. I loved them both dearly & am fighting back tears now just writing this.
Grandpa died 17th April 1996 around 4pm 9 years & 1 day after Grandma. My Dad (his son) had gone into hospital the night before with his brother & sister & they had all bid him farewell. Mum called me the next morning to let me know he would probably pass away that day & that she was working so it was OK (Mum is a nurse & was working in the hospital on that day; she would not have had any time to sit with Grandpa). I have never been more distraught in my life at the thought of him laying there alone & dying alone. Luckily I was able to jump in my car & drive straight down there (3 hour drive). On arrival my Dad's sister M was there, she'd kind of felt the same way too. We sat with him for the afternoon reminiscing & talking about family. Grandpa died to the sound of us talking & laughing about funny family incidents over the years. Maybe he wanted to get away from the chin wagging, but I take comfort in knowing I saw him out & that he was not alone.
I was annoyed on reading the 3rd version of the story. I felt it tarnished Grandpa's courage somewhat. Perhaps Lieutenant C really did leave Grandpa his rations & gun. Maybe Grandpa was too delirious from his injury to notice. Maybe the "brass" didn't convey to the troops that the mission was to go back & look for Blue, rather than have another go at taking the position. I'd have thought that looking for their mate would be more motivating, but maybe I'm wrong. All I do know is that it was along time ago & peoples memories fade.
My memories of my Blue are still very strong & emotional. He was my Grandpa, but he was also my mate. I love you Grandpa. RIP.
PS I'll tell you just a little bit more, now that I've pulled myself back together. Grandpa had Red hair when he was young, which earned him that nick name of Blue (but I only ever knew him as bald). He had a wicked sense of humor which ended badly one day when our dog Freckles bit me, instead of Grandpa, who'd pulled his tail. He loved to grow vegetables & every year when the pumpkin's were ready, my sister & I would find pumpkin's with our names carved into them by "fairies"! He also grew beautiful "magic" beans with help from the fairies. According to his war diary, he & his mates went AWOL a couple of times while still in Australia to go visit family or go to the "pictures". He became a dairy farmer at Grandma's request - she only agreed to marry him if he did so, as that was all she knew how to do, so a dairy farmer he became. He loved a nice cold beer & a counter meal at the local pub. His favourite TV show hillariously was the "A Team" & he loved Mr T. After Grandma died, he vigilantly tended her fuscia's - he didn't like flowers - but they were the only flowers she liked & she never liked them inside, just to look at in the garden.
PSS This series of posts was inspired by Slyde who more recently lost his best friend who was also his Grandpa. Hugs Mate.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
As written by Katie B Yr 9 K High School
“A War Hero: Blue M”
2/3rd Commando Squadron
After talking with my grandfather over the years & attending a reunion with him, I came to the conclusion that he was the person I should talk to about a war hero. Although he said that anyone who was “forward scout”, “observation post” or “listening post” personnel in enemy territory were hero’s, this essay is based on a man named “Blue”. My grandfather was a member of one of those patrols but being a modest man did not choose to talk about himself.
“You lived alone amongst your mates & you became part of one another to such an extent that you knew exactly what each one would do when attacked. It was almost like reading another man’s mind & it gave great confidence in action.
Blue was one of those mates, big, helpful & always looking on the bright side. Seldom would you hear Blue going crook about things. The only thing that could stir him was dehydrated mutton & wharfie’s on strike, apart from the odd “nip” or two that got in his way now & then.
We had been doing this reconnaissance work for approximately 3 months & were getting browned off with sneaking about the scrub like escaped convicts. Even Normy & Robbo were getting fed up. Travelling along these tracks at night was quite an experience as quite often cassowary would use the track as well, following along behind a traveller, they would stop when you stopped, & when you moved on, you heard footseps beind you. Many a fast trip was made at night under those circumstances, as sometimes “nips” would attempt to follow you into forward positions the same way.
We were quite pleased one day when Major Wharfe arrived in camp & it was decided that it was time to ambush the tracks that we had been working on. Now instead of being a recce patrol, we were now a fighting patrol. Our job was to ambush all the known supply trains to Mubo where the 17th Brigade was holding out against the “nips”.
This was where a forward scout was most essential. He is the man that leads the patrol at least ten to twelve yards in front of the next man, who gives covering fire if he runs into trouble. The rest of the patrol immediately if contact is made, encircle the enemy position & eliminate resistance.
Sneaking out in front on your own is not a very enviable position to be put in, but it had to be done as the rest of the patrol was dependant on the forward scout to spot any enemy positions or ambushes before the patrol walked into them. Mostly the enemy let the forward scout through, enabling them to get the rest of the patrol. Not only did you have to look out for enemy positions, there were also trip wires, anti-personnel mines, tin cans with stones in them to warn of approaching enemies, as well as a plan of escape if you were opened up on by machine gun or rifle fire. All of this tends to keep you fairly tense, so it was usual after half an hour or so out in front for you to drop back & let another member of the patrol take up your position. It is amazing how fast you can fire off a magazine of tommy gun ammo, hit the scrub & reload, ready to move out after your mates have caught up with you.
On this particular day, Blue was forward scout & was moving very cautiously when suddenly a machine gun opened up. Blue let fly with his tommy gun & dived for the scrub. We attempted to move forward, but were pinned down by heavy machine gun & mortar fire. We held on as long as possible, waiting for Blue to join us, but were pushed off by weight of numbers & forced to retreat to a rendezvous position. We had three wounded, one serious & two not too bad & Blue missing. After getting the wounded evacuated, a patrol was sent back to try & make contact, but ran into heavy machine gun fire & had to retreat with the sad thought that Blue had “copped it”.
We returned to our forward position & reported the sad facts which only too often happened. After a nights rests & something to eat, things seemed a bit better, but it still seemed as though something was missing. The loss of four mates in one day leaves a big hole in a section, especially after being together for so long.
It was decided after a conference of “the brass” that we would have one more go at taking the position the next day. A patrol moved forward at first light to the position where we had been fired on the previous day. A section was on both sides of the track moving cautiously forward, when a voice out of the scrub said “You’re going the wrong way sport, there’s “nips” down there”. Low & behold it was Blue.
From what he told us, he had been hit in the knee when he dived off the track & was pinned down & couldn’t move because of his leg.
He lay doggo all day & that night started to crawl back to camp. After two days & nights of crawling on his side with a lawyer vine tied to his wounded leg, he would crawl forward a foot & then drag his wounded leg up, then go forward another foot or so. When we found him he had crawled & pulled his wounded leg about eight hundred yards from where he’d been hit. He was not a pretty sight, his arms & shoulders were red raw & his good leg was practically warn to the bone. The flies had blown his knee which was badly shattered, but he was still able to crack a joke with his mates & thank them for coming to get him.
We left him with the R.A.P. corporal whilst a stretcher party was organised & continued on down the track only to find the “nips” had blown through. Why? No-one would know.
The position was taken & consolidated; we were moved back to headquarters for a couple of days rest & good cooking. Blue in the meantime had been treated as best he could by the doctor & prepared for the trip of horrors, back over Double Mountain for evacuation back to Australia.
That was 1943. The next time that I was to see Blue & those of us who were left was forty three years later at a unit reunion. He hasn’t changed much, older & greyer, but still with that bright & happy outlook on life that he had when he was a young man”.
Although Blue wasn’t awarded any medals, he was still a hero in the eyes of many men, especially those he fought with & those who were dependant on him. The point I am trying to make is that you don’t need public acclaim or medals to prove that you were a hero, you just need the thoughts of those that you fought with & who know what you did to be considered a hero. Although there were some recognised hero’s, many were not but they are no less heroes in the eyes of those whom they fought or those that come to learn their stories.
When I think back on all those times
Playing war games in the yard
Everybody wants to be a hero
Back then it wasn’t hard
The night would fall on the battlezone
And we could all go home
….Ish album produced by 1927
Friday, October 15, 2010
I have changed some of the details to protect privacy.
“ANZAC DAY MEMORIES OF A WORLD WAR II COMMANDO"
Keith M, a member of the Terang RSL for the past 50 years will be among the ex-servicemen & women who attend the Anzac Day Ceremony at the Terang war memorial next Monday.
Mr M served in the 2nd/3rd Australian Army Independent Commando company during World War II in New Guinea where he was badly wounded. He showed great courage & determination by crawling backwards up a mountain on a narrow track to return to his unit. He served as a corporal & was promoted to sergeant when serving in New Guinea. He can still remember his army number VX #####. After the war Mr M had his own dairy farm at East Framlingham. In 1980 his son & daughter in law took over the farm & he came to live in Terang.
Prior to the war, Mr M worked as a herd tester in Camperdown & as that was a reserved occupation he went to Melbourne to join the Army. “We did our initial training at Royal Park & were then sent to the 6th Infantry Army Training Battalion at Darley” he said. “Six men including myself from country areas from that group volunteered to go to an isolated & independent training camp at Foster on Wilsons Promontory for three months where we were specially trained in all aspects of military warfare”. Each independent commando company had 320 men. Two NZ independent companies were also trained at Foster.
“We were divided into sections of 22 men & each section was divided into two subdivisions. I was in the third company formed” Mr M said. “The first company of men were put on all the islands between Australia & the Philippines & the second company were marooned together in Timor & spent practically all the war up in the hills & survived with the natives” he said. “Most men were trained in one specific area such as wireless or engineering. In our commando unit we had to look after ourselves & it was essential that we knew about explosives. We undertook extremely dangerous operations going in & out on foot to enemy territory. We were really harassment troops & not trained to fight in armed combat”.
He said that the original instructors at the training camp were Brittish officers who were sent out to train the Australian men in the commando companies. “My company was initially going to Timor as reinforcements to the second company but when were on the troup train in Oonadatta, the Japanese bombed pearl harbour on December 7, 1941 & the plans were changed. “We were sent to New Caladonia, a French island that the Japanese army had not invaded. Our role was to find out enemy movements, particularly in submarine & aircraft & protect the island which was the biggest nickel mine in the world, from falling into Japanese hands. In those days nickel was a scarce commodity. The island is about 33 miles wide & 150 miles long& has a mountain range up the middle. We remained on the island for 12 months until we were relived by 40,000 American troops. We lived on army rations & supplemented with catching fish: we would blow up the sea with hand grenades to catch them. The natives liked us doing that & used to take most of the fish. We came home to Australia for 3 weeks leave & then my unit, the 3rd independent Commando Company was sent to New Guinea.” Mr M said that the objective of the Japanese was to capture Wau in the centre of New Guinea. Wau was a big gold mining centre & the only way in was by air.
“We went in via a Douglas DC3 aircraft & it was pretty tricky as there was only one gap through the range & cloud before the plan finally got down on a shirt 1100 yard run way. Everything –troops, ammunition, food – had to be brought in by planes. Each plane held 22 men & their equipment & it was a quick operation getting in & out again as the Japanese were positioned at the end of the aerodrome. We had to fight the enemy at the end of the aerodrome & we had to push them back to Lae & Salamava”.
Mr M said walking was difficult as you could only go single file along a narrow track. We spent months travelling 5 miles. On a reconnaissance mission, my unit of 12 men was involved in running into a booby trap. In the enemy machine gun fire I was unlucky enough to be hit in the leg”. Overcoming immense obstacles, he used his pocket knife to dig under a log & get on the other side. He used vines & sticks to make a splint for his leg. His unit had gone by then as they thought he was dead. Mr M dragged his leg backwards up the steep mountain range, his aim being to reach a native sugar plantation. This took him four & a half days without food as they had left their packs halfway down the track. He drank very little water which he obtained from leaves on the ground. At night he covered himself with leaves & shivered himself to sleep. “One of my biggest problems was leeches which got into my mouth & even in my nose” he said. “I finally got to the top of the range & heard voices & footsteps which turned out to be my unit”.
The rigged up stretchers & took Mr M back to a field dressing station. He said the fuzzy wuzzies (natives) took him & all the wounded men out over the 10,000 foot high razor back mountain ranges back to Wau. “I would not have survived if it was not for the natives” he said. They carried the wounded men on stretchers over the one foot wide tracks with sheer drops to the river below – a very difficult feat. “One little chap walked beside me with a big banana leaf to keep the rain off my head. I was put on a plane & sent back to a big field hospital in Port Morseby. The wounded were going back home by ship but the plans were changed when the Australian hospital ship the “Centaur” was sunk by a torpedo with a great number of lives lost including doctors & nurses. The next day we were flown back to Townsville”.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
1. You have visitors the night before & stay up drinking with them til past bedtime!
2. You smash out a personal best of 8kms on the tready while still hungover very early Saturday morning. I think I was still a bit smashed!
3. Forgo your Saturday arvo nap to start drinking again, mid afternoon.
That said, we had a great night out but unfortunately I don't have any photo's yet! Will do a proper photo post soon(ish). I was thoroughly spoiled though & have enjoyed every minute!
Plumbing Boy organised a massive cake - I think he forgot to tell the shop there was only 14 peeps for dinner. I think she catered for 50! I think we'll eat the last of it today & my plumbers have feasted all week!
Grandma - no change, she is still up & down. As my Ma said it is a day to day thing. Any exertion "knocks her up" & renders her unable to hold a cup or fork or spoon or feed/water herself.
Holiday - our trip is in 16 sleeps! I'm getting a tad excited I must say! I got a fabulous dive bag on wheels for my birthday - like a wheelie duffel bag. I'm looking forward to NOT having to carry all my gear on my back! All flights & accommodation is now booked & paid for. Can't wait to get some sun & hit the water!
I'm still hoping to get a smidge leaner before we go, so here are this weeks stats:
WEIGH IN DAY: Thursday morning.
Start Weigh: 65kgs
After Week 15: 62.5kgs
This week: -.5kgs
While I lost scale weight, I increased a small amount in cms, which is not surprising considering all the cake we've eaten this week!
Measurements (Starting after week 1):
Waist (Belly Button): 88cms; W14 80cms; W15 80.5cms +.5cms
Pot Belly: 94cms; W14 88cms; W15 89cms +1cm
Butt (broadest part): 108cms; W14 102.5cms; W15 103cms +.5cms
Bust: 97cms; W2 95cms; W14 93cms W15 91cms -2cms
Running Goal (starting from Wednesday 22nd)
Week 1 19/15
Week 2 16/15
Week 3 21/15
Overall 56/75 smashing it!!!
Thursday, October 7, 2010
FFF Challenge after Week 14:
Start Weigh: 65kgs
After Week 14: 63kgs
Total Lost this Week: -1kgs
Total Lost: -2kgs
Measurements (Starting after week 1):
Pot Belly: 94cms; W13 90.5; W14 88cms -2.5cms
Butt (broadest part): 108cms; W13 104cms; W14 102.5cms -1.5cms
Bust: 97cms; W13 94cms; W14 93cms -1cms
I think my body is starting to change with the running I've been doing. I was going to say FINALLY. But I think it my commitment that's kicked in finally. Less self sabotage, more motivation yada yada yada. While I am quite happy about this, I kinda wish it had kicked in at week 6!
Running Goal (starting from Wednesday 22nd)
- aiming for 15kms per week & 75ms before October 27th
Week 1 19/15
Week 2 16/15
Week 3 so far 7/15
No food tracking this week - couldn't be shagged.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I did go for a run on Saturday morning though. I've run 16kms this week & did 19kms last week which brings me to 35/75kms I want to run before we go away. Totally on track. I was so tired last night I really couldn't be bothered, but I went & did it - it's a bit like having to make your bed, or do the dishes when you can't be shagged. If you can make yourself just do it, then it is done! I'm usually not so good at this, but I am trying really hard to create that habit. LOL so I'll still be fit(er) & Fab :0)
Looks like winter is finally over in Melbourne & we've had a couple of beautiful days. Can't wait for Summer. Bring it on!!!