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    Latest War Veterans Group News

    War Veterans Group Luncheon
    Wednesday October 1, 2014

    What relevance could “Up there Cazaly” and “One Day in September” possibly have to the War Veterans Group you ask?  Well, it was all revealed and explained in the most interesting and entertaining way to 260 members and guests by Mike Brady AM during his fourth appearance in seven days at the “G” (rehearsals Thursday and Friday, grand final Saturday and then our lunch as guest speaker).

    The scene was set for the afternoon with Mike’s opening remarks about being invited to sing the (then) new National Anthem in 1984 at an event being televised by the ABC. Much effort went into learning the first verse and on the day all went well with “our land is girt by sea” and  up to “our land abounds in nature’s gifts” which might have been followed by an ignominious silence had Mike not had the presence of mind to fill in with “of forests deep and tall”. Then the real problem emerged… what on earth rhymes with “tall”?  In an inspired moment Mike followed up with “because we had no say in it – no say in it at all”. Perhaps not surprisingly, when Mike telephoned his ABC producer Bruce (he assured us that back in 1984 most ABC employees were named “Bruce”) to apologise, he learned that there had not been a single complaint lodged about his gaffe.

    Born in England, Mike migrated to Melbourne with his family in 1959 under the “Ten Pound Pom” scheme.  He left school at fourteen still unable to read or write and a year later discovered what was to become his salvation – the guitar, and commenced his career as a performer and musician. In the early ‘60s he formed the band MPD which had several major hits.

    At age 19 Mike received an offer to tour with a USO show in South Vietnam (United Service Organisations is an organisation that has provided entertainment for US Forces on operations since WW2). 

    Given that a large proportion of the audience were Vietnam Veterans they quickly warmed to Mike’s recounting of some of his experiences from his arrival a Tan Son Nhut air base in (then) Saigon and the Caravelle Hotel known to many and which housed the Australian embassy, to major US bases at Can Tho and Qui Nhon. The horror of Buddhist monks burning themselves in protest at their persecution by the Government. Of particular interest was an experience in Cu Chi (the vast VC tunnel network is now a major tourist attraction) where US officers were at a loss to explain how the VC continually managed to infiltrate their base. The vehicle in which they were travelling became bogged and to their surprise many Vietnamese quickly ran to assist in pushing them out and getting back on their way. Later Mike realised that they were VC who wanted them out of the way quickly so as not to attract assistance from US forces.

    But it was Mike’s recollection of the Tet offensive of January 1968 that struck a chord with many of those present.  The USO show had moved to Qui Nhon where the US had an Air Force base and around 50,000 troops. The touring party sensed an enormous feeling of unease among the locals in the town. Fortunately they were rescued and from the hills several kilometers away watched as the city was overrun by the Viet Cong who took control until Korean troops re-took the city many days later.

    All in all a memorable piece of storytelling interspersed with renditions of “We Gotta get out of This Place” and of course “Up There Cazaly” and “One Day in September”.

    Mike Brady AM is a truly great entertainer.

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    War Veterans’ Group Luncheon
    Wednesday March 12, 2014

    Our first luncheon for the year hosted by new chairman of the group, John Murrihy, set a standard that is not going to be easy to maintain.  But maintain it we will. 

    Major General Professor Jeffrey Rosenfeld AM OBE CStJ, recent Surgeon General-Reserves of the ADF, in a most interesting and informative address, spoke of ‘The Revolution in Battlefield Casualty Care’. Himself a Veteran of several deployments his address was based primarily on his experiences in Iraq and latterly casualty statistics and medical strategies from the Afghanistan conflict.

    After reading of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and the wounds inflicted on Allied forces for more than a decade it was hardly surprising to hear that the magnitude and frequency IEDs has increased enormously. Not only that, but the proximity of our troops to the explosions has resulted in a noticeable worsening of the level of trauma suffered by our casualties. Significantly, the mortality rate (US statistics) of troops over the past 60 years has shown a significant decline; from 30% in WWII through 24% in Vietnam to a level of less than 10% in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Why is it so?  Basically today’s military trauma management system has refined the minimization of trauma and its treatment regime when it occurs, to point where survivability from major wounds and trauma is far more likely than not. The whole system starts with use of body armour and in the field the management of our wounded starts with buddy care; everyone is trained to care for a wounded comrade at the basic level. Level One battlefield care by medics is aimed at enabling evacuation to field surgery facilities (Level 2) such as those at Tarin Kowt. The next level of care is evacuation to US hospitals such as those in Germany or military hospitals such Walter Reid in continental US.

    The whole system hinges on the ‘Platinum Five’. The vital five minutes within which a casualty must be resuscitated after being severely wounded. The key is the tourniquet.  The quick stopping of bleeding is afforded by the wearing of tourniquets which can be activated immediately in the event of major wounds to stem bleeding. A remarkable advancement in stemming of bleeding has been ‘Quik Clot’; surprisingly a substance derived from powdered lobster and crayfish shells!

    These battlefield measures are supported by a triage (casualty classification) system which aims at having the severely wounded stable enough to be flown out of theatre within 24 to 48 hours of being wounded. The C17 aircraft are fitted out as intensive care wards and are quite remarkable. This raises the question ‘who would want save such badly wounded (blinded, limbless etc.) servicemen/women?’. The answer is perhaps not so clear to those of us who have never been placed in such a position but it is everyone - family, mates, children, friends, the ADF and the country.

    So what is the future for the badly wounded who are saved? Those who have lost limbs or senses such as sight and hearing. Our speaker has been involved in much of the research and development relating to bionic aid use and while the advances made in bionic limbs and cochlear implants have been remarkable his outline of the research being undertaken into bionic sight enhancement for those who have actually lost their eyes - by the use sensors relaying to a brain implanted device - was fascinating to say the least.

    In his concluding remarks General Rosenfeld reminded us of those veterans with ‘invisible wounds’. A wake-up call to us all of the hidden torment of war and the need for us all, not only veterans, to fight for and protect those who place themselves in danger for us and our country.

    Perhaps our MCC President Paul Sheehan summed up the presentation as well as anyone could – ‘unforgettable’. Yes.

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    MCC War Veterans’ Luncheon
    Wednesday October 16, 2013

    Our final luncheon for the year saw over 200 members and guests captivated by our guest speaker who insists he is a story teller as opposed to an historian or author. His story of the POW and internment camps established in Victoria and NSW over the period 1939-1947 was a quite amazing oral portrait of the barbed wire, machineguns, murder, escape tunnels, politics, humour, cunning, intrigue, inhumanity and humanity that occupied areas that are now largely quiet farmland.

    Tim Whitford was born and bred in Yarram, South Gippsland but now lives with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Alexandra in Tallarook in Central Victoria. A former regular army soldier, Tim served as a Tank Commander in the 1st Armoured Regiment and on the instructional staff at the Armoured Centre. He also served as a Challenger Main Battle Tank commander overseas on attachment to the British Army’s 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards as part of NATO in Northwest Germany, and to his horror, in the Light Infantry role (read Walking Up Big Hills) with British Forces in Cyprus.

    As a boy at his Grandmother’s knee, Tim listened in awe to stories of the soldiers of his family in the Great War and Second World War. The men and the stories got into his blood.

    In 2006 Tim joined forces with Lambis Englezos, a previous guest speaker, to search and advocate for the missing of Fromelles including his own Great Uncle. Finally, in 2008, Tim Lambis, and their team were vindicated when their chosen site was confirmed as a mass burial site, exactly where the team of “Amateurs” had said it would be. Their tireless work and advocacy has ultimately ensured the discovery and recovery of 250 missing soldiers in one of Europe’s largest non-genocide mass grave discoveries. One of the 250 soldiers found has since been confirmed as Tim’s uncle.

    Tim has appeared on television all over the world including Channel 9’s “60 Minutes” and “Today” programs on multiple occasions. He’s been the subject of interviews and feature pieces on the ABC’s “7:30 Report”, and “Stateline” programs, and has been interviewed on CNN, the BBC, and on French news and Current affairs programs. He is even featured in the French film “La Guerre de Bill” (Bill’s War).

    On the radio, Tim has been interviewed by many respected journalists including Jennifer Byrne, Rachael Brown, Mike Carlton, and Derryn Hinch and has co-hosted the ABC Radio coverage of the broadcast of the Anzac Day March for three years.

    For his work on behalf of the missing of Fromelles, Tim was honoured with the award of the “Medaille de Fromelles” (Fromelles Medal), and on the same day in July 2010 was made a Citizen of Fromelles, by the Mayor of Fromelles.

    Tim is an active member of the RSL, the 1st Armoured Regiment Association, and is a committee member of the Australian Light Horse Memorial Park in Seymour. He is active in Remembrance and memorial projects throughout regional Victoria and regularly leads tours of the Western Front Battlefields of France and Belgium and the Old Seymour Army Camp.

    More recently, with his friend John Gribben, Tim has led tours of the old Murchison-Tatura POW Camp complex where he walks in the footsteps of his Great Grandfather Tom, a returned WW1 veteran who signed up for another go in the Second World War and found himself guarding POW’s at Murchison.

    Tim continues to advocate for the soldiers of the Great War and is now employed at the Shrine of Remembrance. He calls it his “Dream Job” and after his enthusiastic and graphic painting of the POW and internee picture for us, it is easy to see why.

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    MCC War Veterans Luncheon
    Wednesday August 28, 2013

    The August War Veterans' Group luncheon saw 284 members and guests provided with a rare insight into the Western Front and its battles through the documented lives of two of the participants. 

    Our guest speaker was historian, writer and screen producer Will Davies whose historical interests are eclectic ranging from the military through aviation and Australian immigration to railways. A particular interest is the battlefields of the Western Front in Northern France and Belgium to which he regularly conducts tours and this is reflected in his writing and film production. His close association is perhaps highlighted through his book Beneath Hill 60 which he completed in twenty weeks in order for it to be released in conjunction with the release of the film of the same name. However, two of his other books were the focus of his address.

    Best seller Somme Mud was eventually published in 2006 after having been written in the 1920s and 30s as memoirs by Edward Francis Lynch. At that time Lynch’s manuscript filled twenty school exercise books. Later, during his time as CO of the Australian Jungle Training School during WW II, he typed the manuscript and had it bound but there was little interest in publishing it. In 2002 Mike Lynch, his grandson, passed the 280 page manuscript to Will who edited it down to around 230 pages and it was published in 2006 by Random House. The down-to-earth language of the time and the feelings of those young men are wonderfully recorded and suffer nothing from the editing.

    It is Lynch’s story that is compelling and we came to know of a man who was born in Bourke N.S.W. in 1897 and enlisted in 1916. He fought in many of the major Western Front battles including Morval, Messines, Paschendaele, Hamel and the second battle of Villers-Brentonneux. In 1917 he was injured by mortar fire and repatriated to England for six months only to return to France in March 1918 just in time to meet the German Spring offensive on the Somme. He returned to Sydney in July 1919 and between the wars was a school teacher and taught at Tumbarumba. He served as CO of the Australian Jungle Training School during WW II and died in 1980.

    The Boy Colonel provided the second insight into the Western Front. Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Marks, was the youngest battalion commander in the AIF and highly regarded not only as a future military commander, but as a business and community leader. A wonderful précis of his life can be found here on Will’s web site.  Suffice to say for this summary he was a gallant soldier and admired leader. He fought in many of the major Western Front battles and was awarded the MC and  DSO and was Mentioned in Dispatches.

    He returned to Australia in late 1918 and on the 25th January 1920 he ventured Palm Beach to the north of Sydney where the surf was wild. Two attempts had already been made to save a young woman caught in an undertow and dragged out when a young man; skinny, gangly and frail and known to be a poor swimmer, threw off his coat and shoes and raced into the surf. As his fiancée and young nephew watched, the sea closed over him and he disappeared. His body was never recovered.

    Thanks to our guest Will Davies another very informative and enjoyable War Veterans’ Group lunch.

    Image (left to right): Frank Web, Mrs Davies, Lambis Englezos, Will Davies and Robert Webster.

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    MCC War Veterans Luncheon
    Wednesday May 1, 2013

    Our guest this month was Ross McMullin. Perhaps previously best known in military circles for his biography on World War One General Pompey Elliott, Ross is a historian and biographer whose main interests are Australian history, politics, and sport.  We are most fortunate that Ross's fascination with World War One, indeed his powerful conviction that the Great War was the most significant event in the twentieth century, has resulted in such insightful chronicling of some of the people of those times for future generations.

    Having researched the Great War in the National Library archives and other sources for years in preparing his 718 page biography on Pompey Elliott, Ross could be forgiven for moving on to one of his other historical interests. And he did. Only to be drawn back to World War One.

    It is perhaps most fortunate that Pompey Elliott survived the War because had he not done so one wonders if his biography would have been written.  More importantly, where (if at all) would our speaker have found the inspiration to research and write about some of the 60,000 men who were not as fortunate as Pompey and now lie in foreign lands.  Thankfully, Farewell Dear People: Biographies of Australia's Lost Generation has been born out of that inspiration.

    We were privileged to have Ross outline the lives of the ten Australians he chose for inclusion in this book which was awarded the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award in 2012. There is not the space or time to do justice to his presentation or his book here but perhaps some snippets may whet the surfer's appetite and give some insight into why the loss of so many talented young lives from a developing countries population of less than five million resulted in 'a lost generation'.

    Gordon Clunes McKay Mathison graduated from Melbourne University in 1905. He was an internationally regarded researcher into the physiology of respiration and went to London in 1908 to continue his work at St. Mary's Hospital and later at University College Hospital. In 1913 he was appointed sub-director of pathology at the Melbourne University and was nominated as the first director of the nascent Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Australia's first pathological research institute.. When war broke out he enlisted in the A.I.F, was commissioned Captain and posted to 2nd Field Ambulance.  He landed at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915. and died of wounds on 18th May.

    Tom Elliott entered the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1912 and in December 1914 was posted to the 7th Light Horse and left for Egypt. He saw action in Gallipoli and then in 1916 he met Pompey Elliott who he impressed as a raw but talented officer. He was soon promoted Major and from the end of May 1916 acted as 2IC of 60th Battalion. Such was Pompey's high regard for his young namesake that he had him posted out of 60th Battalion before the battle of Fromelles, which he (Pompey) feared was to be a disaster.  Ultimately, though, Tom lead the second line of 60th Battalion on the fateful day and lost his life.

    Ross McMullin had the group of over two hundred enthralled with these and eight other stories which included those of three MCC members, a member of Mawson's 1911 Antarctic expedition and even a Carlton footballer!

    Truly, a presentation to remember.

    Image: Author and historian Ross McMullin displays his gift of VC winners with John Murrihy Vice Chairman of the Group.

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    MCC War Veterans Luncheon 
    Wednesday March 20, 2013

    Our guest this month was Ron Clarke MBE, a great Australian athlete, businessman, community leader, author and patron and supporter of many sporting endeavours from the  Australian Olympic and Commonwealth Games to the Melbourne and Gold Coast marathons.

    Father of the year in 1983 and National Seniors Council Senior Australian of the Year in 2000 he still found time to be mayor of the gold coast city council from 2004 until last year.

    He matriculated from Melbourne High School in 1953 and as a junior set world bests for the mile and two mile in 1955.  Many here would remember him lighting the Olympic flame at the 1956 Olympic games only a hundred or so (yards back then) from the Members' Dining Room.

    Altogether he held 17 official world track records between 1963 and 1972 when Swede Lasse Viren set a new mark for the 10,000 m.  He was the first athlete to break 13 minutes for the three mile and 28 minutes for the 10,000 metres.  At one stage he held every world record from two miles to 20 kilometres. His record in that distance band even surpassed that of Paavo Nurmi, who set four of his world times between 1500 and 2000 metres..

    The respect with which he was held by his athletic peers might best be understood by considering his visit to Czechoslovakia in 1966 at the invitation of the great distance runner Emil Zatopek who set Olympic records winning the 5000 and 10,000 m and the marathon at the 1952 Helsinki games.  

    Melbourne's Zatopek 10,000 race was first run in 1961 having been established by Victorian Marathon Club members - great coach Percy Cerutty, together with Les Perry and Bob Prentice who met Zatopek at the 1952 Olympics.  Ron won the first two Zatopeks unspectacularly, however, in the 1963 event he set his first world records for six miles and 10,000 m.  

    At the end of his Czechoslovakia visit, he was driven to the airport and as they parted, Zatopek pressed a small box into his hand with the words: “not out of friendship but because you deserve it.”  The gift went unopened until the plane was airborne when Zatopek's 1952 10,000 m Olympic gold medal was revealed, freshly engraved with Ron Clarke's name and that day's date.

    Ron's entertaining and informative address covered many of the highlights of his career as an athlete and gave us a rare insight into the operation of world athletics at the elite level.  Following his address President Paul Sheahan conducted a Parkinson style interview which rounded off a most successful luncheon.

    Image: Helen Clarke, Ilse Murrihy, Ron Clarke, John Murrihy (Vice Chairman), John Cullen (Secretary).

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    MCC War Veterans Luncheon
     
    Wednesday October 10, 2012

    WWII Pacific Coast Watchers Remembered

    The October War Veterans' Group luncheon saw 316 members and guests enthralled as guest speaker Patrick Lindsay related his research into his book 'The Coast Watchers: The Men Behind Enemy Lines Who Saved the Pacific'.  A noted non-fiction author with a flair for military history, Patrick's works include 'The Spirit of Kokoda', 'The Spirit of Gallipoli' and 'Cosgrove - Portrait of a Leader'.

    Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 which saw them sweep unchecked through the Pacific, many serving in the area were either unable or unwilling to withdraw in front of the Japanese forces and found themselves behind enemy lines.  Aided by loyal islanders they watched - and they warned.  These were the Coast Watchers. 

    Their vigilance in watching and reporting Japanese aircraft and shipping movements provided vital warning time to the Allies allowing them to prepare for airstrikes and more importantly to prepare defence plans which took a significant toll on the enemy.  The wireless equipment of the day required up to ten men to transport and the support of the local natives was vital to enable frequent relocations of their jungle hideouts to avoid discovery, an essential element in avoiding inevitable execution at the hands of the Japanese if they were captured.

    It was not only their early warning and intelligence operations that provided essential support to the Allies.  Numerous allied airmen and sailors who were seen to be in distress by the Coast Watchers were rescued and assisted with safe passage.  Who knows what the course of history might have been if John F. Kennedy Jnr had not been rescued by an Australian Coast Watcher?

    Image: Chairman Frank Web makes a presentation to guest speaker Patrick Lindsay.

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    MCC War Veterans June Luncheon
    Wednesday June 8, 2011 Guest speaker Mr Dave Sabben MG (left) with MCC War Veterans chairman Barry Minster

    The MCC War Veterans Group held their second lunch for the year in the Members Dining Room having outgrown the capacity of the Long Room. 

    The group’s luncheons are proving to be extremely popular and more than 250 members and guests attended this one, the second largest attendance since the group was formed.

    Guest speaker Mr Dave Sabben MG provided the group with an entertaining address detailing his experiences in Vietnam including an informative and fascinating presentation on the Battle of Long Tan.

    Mr Sabben MG was conscripted in 1965, a first intake national serviceman under Australia’s National Service Scheme and posted to sixth Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in 1966 as a Platoon Commander.

    He commanded the twelth Platoon, Delta Company at the Battle of Long Tan, August 18, 1966. He has also been awarded the Medal for Gallantry.

    The last luncheon for the year will be held on Wednesday October 12 in the Members Dining Room.

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    General Peter Cosgrove addresses the MCC War Veterans Group Luncheon on June 23, 2010General Cosgrove salutes War Vets
    Wednesday June 23, 2010

    One of Australia’s most recognised and respected military leaders, General Peter Cosgrove AC MC, took to the stage at the MCC War Veterans Group lunch on June 23 and he didn’t disappoint.

    The 2001 Australian of the Year and former Defence Force chief addressed more than 300 members and their guests in the Olympic Room on a range of topics, including the role our troops are now playing in Afghanistan, his plans to walk the Kokoda Track and a family link to Richmond Football Club.

    “My uncle, Billy Cosgrove, played for Richmond and served the RAAF in World War II,” General Cosgrove boasted proudly, adding that Billy was killed in action in New Guinea in 1943. 

    Showing his loyalty to the Tigers, Billy was known to decorate his planes with the Richmond logo and the slogan "Eat 'em alive".

    "Bill always put the tiger's head on the nose of his aeroplanes - and 'Eat 'em alive' was under the tiger's head,” said General Cosgrove.  “Jack Dyer would have loved it.”

    The list of the general's achievements is impressive, but his service in East Timor made him an instantly recognisable figure to most Australians.  In 1999, as Commander of the Deployable Joint Force Headquarters, he assumed command of the International Forces in East Timor (INTERFET) until the force was withdrawn in February 2000. 

    On his return to Australia after this successful mission, he was appointed Chief of Army. In July 2002 General Cosgrove assumed the profile position of Chief of the Defence Force, a position he held until July 2005.

    At the luncheon, General Cosgrove spoke of his admiration for the 99 Australians who died at The Lost Battlefield at Eora Creek in 1942. It is now hoped those soldiers listed as Missing Presumed Killed in Action will be identified and returned home for burial. 

    Cosgrove, who visited the site in May this year with a Channel 7 television crew, described this particular event as a “tremendously Australian part of World War II history.”

    His next challenge, though, is to walk the famous 96-kilometre Kokoda Track in October, a task he admits will be formidable for a man of his burly stature.

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    MCC War Veterans October Lunch

    The MCC War Veterans Group held their final luncheon for the year in the Long Room this afternoon.  More than 180 members and guests were entertained by a key note address from The Honourable Alan Griffin MP - Federal Member for Bruce and Minister for Veterans Affairs (pictured right). 

    Introduced by War Veterans committee member, Frank Webb, Mr Griffin provided and articulate and entertaining address on his parliamentary experiences including some of the more lighter moments he has encountered in public life.  He also provided some general policy thoughts on veterans affairs that were well received by the gathering.

    War Veterans Chairman, Les Shelley, offered a vote of thanks to the Minister before he scurried off to catch a flight back to Canberra for a late afternoon cabinet meeting!  MCC committee member, Ted Yencken, also addressed the luncheon having recently been appointed the committee liaison for the War Veterans Group taking over from Peter Mitchell who assumes responsibility for the Golf Section and Long Room Wine and Food Society.

    The first luncheon for 2010 will be held in the Long Room on Wednesday February 24 and further details about this function will be advised to members in due course.