Great Reads – ‘No Front Line’ (2017) by Chris Masters

No Front Line

I’ve just finished reading this book, published in October 2017, which you can find in paperback form at most Australian bookstores.

Written by the acclaimed Australian journalist Chris Masters (whose previous book on Afghanistan was ‘Uncommon Soldier’) it tells the story of Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan from 2002 onwards, through the lense of those who served in Australian Special Forces (the SASR, Commandos or Special Operations Engineer Regiment) as well as those in the various Reconstruction Task Groups or Command appointments.

Overall I found it to be a great read that fills a void, as restrictions on media coverage really limited what was told at the time that many of these events happened.

My only complaint about the book is the lack of any maps used to describe events in each Chapter. They were probably omitted for security reasons, which I find perplexing.

Commandos Afghanistan

You can buy the book here: https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/general-books/military/No-Front-Line-Chris-Masters-9781760111144

On this day – Queen Victoria approves the introduction of the Victoria Cross (VC) awarded for gallantry ‘in the face of the enemy’ – 29 January 1856

Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross, Britain’s (and some Commonwealth countries) highest award for gallantry for members of the Armed Forces, was officially constituted by warrant on this day in 1856.

Since that time the medal has been awarded 1,358 times to 1,355 individual recipients. Only 15 medals have been awarded since the Second World War.

As of 2018, there are six (6) living recipients of the Victoria Cross, three (3) living recipients of the Victoria Cross for Australia and one (1) living recipient of the Victoria Cross for New Zealand. They are:

  • Flight Lieutenant John Cruickshank VC, 210 Sqn RAF (awarded  for his actions in the Battle of the Atlantic in 1944)
  • Sergeant Bill Speakman VC, Black Watch attached to King’s Own Scottish Borderers (awarded for his actions in Korea in 1951)
  • Captain Rambahadur Limbu, VC, MVO, 2nd Battalion, 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles (awarded for his actions in Borneo in 1965)
  • Warrant Officer Class 2 Keith Payne VC, AM, Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (awarded for his actions in South Vietnam in 1969)
  • Corporal Willie Apiata VC, New Zealand Special Air Service Regiment (awarded for his actions in Afghanistan in 2004
  • Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry, VC, CNG, 1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (awarded for his actions in Iraq in 2005)
  • Corporal Mark Donaldson VC, Australian Special Air Service Regiment (awarded for his actions in Afghanistan in 2008)
  • Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith VC, MG, Australian Special Air Service Regiment (awarded for his actions in Afghanistan in 2010)
  • Corporal Dan Keighran VC, 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (awarded for his actions in Afghanistan in 2010)
  • Corporal Joshua Leakey VC (shown below), 1st Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (awarded for his actions in Afghanistan in 2015)

Joshua Leakey VC

The largest collections of VCs in the world are held by the Ashcroft Collection in Britain (established in 1986) which now contains 210 medals and the Australian War Memorial, which has 69 medals on public display.

You can find out more about the Ashcroft Collection here: http://www.lordashcroftmedals.com/

You can find out more about the AWM collection here: https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/encyclopedia/vic_cross

 

 

 

Army News – 9th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (9 Regt RAA) re-formed to command all Army Reserve Light Batteries

F2 Mortar

9th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (9 Regt RAA) was re-formed on 15 January 2018 to command all of the Army Reserve (ARes) Light Batteries, who previously from 2013 onward were placed under operational command (OPCOM) of Infantry battalions, providing indirect fire support utilising F2 81mm Mortars.

RAA Badge           9 Regt RAA Unit Colour Patch

RHQ 9 Regt RAA is based at Kogarah Multi-user Deport (MUD) in Sydney and now commands the following sub-units:

  • 2nd/10th Light Battery (formerly part of the 5th/6th Battalion, The Royal Victoria Regiment the based in St Kilda in Melbourne)
  • 3rd Light Battery (formerly part of the 11th/28th Battalion, The Royal Western Australia Regiment based at Irwin Barracks in Perth)
  • 5th/11th Light Battery (formely part of the 9th Battalion, The Royal Queensland Regiment based at Gallipoli Barracks in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast)
  • 6th/13th Light Battery (formerly part of the 10th/27th Battalion, The Royal South Australian Regiment based at Keswick Barracks in Adelaide and Glenorchy in Hobart)
  • 7th Light Battery (formerly part of the 2nd/17th Battalion, The Royal New South Wales Regiment based at Dee Why and Adamstown in Sydney)
  • 23rd Light Battery (formerly part of the 4th/3rd Battalion, The Royal New South Wales Regiment based at Kogarah in Sydney)

9 Regt RAA takes its lineage from the 9th Australian Field Artillery (AFA) Brigade (part of the 3rd Australian Division in the First World War) and 2/9th Field Regiment RAA (part of the 8th Australian Division in the Second World War). Each of the above Batteries also take their own lineage from predecessor Regiments and Batteries stretching back to before Federation in 1901.

You can find out more about the Royal Australian Artillery here: https://www.army.gov.au/our-people/corps/royal-regiment-of-australian-artillery

Customs & Traditions – The Infantry Senior Non-Commissioned Officer’s (SNCOs) Scarlet Sash

British Army SNCOs

The scarlet sash in the British and some other Commonwealth Armies is worn by Sergeants and Warrant Officers Class 2 (WO2) serving in the Infantry.

The tradition dates from the 17th century as sashes were originally used as badges of rank. Some were worn around the waist, whilst others were worn over the
shoulder.

Officers serving in Regiments of Foot wore silken sashes over their left shoulder and Senior NCOs wore worsted sashes over their right shoulder.

Senior NCOs in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and some of  its Commonwealth peers (like the RAAF) have also adopted the tradition wearing a light blue rather than scarlet sash.

On this day – 2nd Australian Light Horse Regiment capture the standard of the 80th Turkish Infantry Regiment during the battle of Magdhaba – 23 December, 1916

80th Turkish Infantry Regiment Standard

This Turkish Standard was captured by Squadron Quartermaster Sergeant (SQMS) Dennis Walker, of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment AIF (2 LH) during the Battle of Magdhaba, on 23 December 1916.

Magdhaba, a village in the northern Sinai desert was occupied by Turkish forces blocking the route to Palestine, was attacked by the ANZAC Mounted Division and the Imperial Camel Corps. After a night march of 22 miles from El Arish the hard fought action was secured by a bayonet assault by the 1st Light Horse Brigade, of which the 2nd Light Horse Regiment was a part, just as the entire Division had been ordered to withdraw.

Walker captured the standard of the 80th Turkish Infantry Regiment from a Turkish officer who was struggling to remove it from it from its elaborate pole and cords. In the process the standard was torn and Walker repaired it with black thread the following night.

The Standard is made of crimson silk with a gold bullion fringe on the upper and lower edges, and on the fly.

One side of the standard is embroidered in gold bullion thread with the toghra (personal cypher) of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet V (1909-1918) within a circle. The circle is surrounded by embroidered representations of four regimental flags and various military symbols, including pikes, double-headed axes and trumpets. Beneath is a scroll of leaves from which are suspended embroidered representations of five medals.

The other side of the standard is also embroidered in gold and shows two texts from the Koran written in arabic script. They translate as ‘There is no god but God‘ and ‘Mohammed, the Messenger of God‘.

The Standard is one of at least three captured in the course of the campaign in Palestine. All are now in the collection of the Australian War Memorial.

You can find out more about the successor to 2 LH, the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment here: https://www.army.gov.au/our-people/units/forces-command/7th-brigade/2nd14th-light-horse-regiment-queensland-mounted-infantry

 

 

Collectable Militaria – Cigarette Trading Cards

CigCards

Cigarette Trading Cards were quite popular in Victorian times and well into the 1930s, and can be bought from collectors of militaria today.

They originated from America in the 1870s. At the time, cigarettes were sold in paper packaging and a piece of cardboard was inserted  in order to stiffen the packet. The Allen and Ginter tobacco company of Richmond, Virginia realised that they could be used as a form of advertising and the trading card was born.

Beginning as an advertising gimmick, Cigarette Trading Cards soon progressed to collectable numbered series on particular themes, including sports and the military. One of my old regiments, The New South Wales Lancers, were depicted by a number of different cigarette manufacturers following their service in the Boer War. Some examples appear above.

  • Trooper Morris, New South Wales Lancers – Taddy’s Premier Navy Cut – VC Heroes – Boer War series (Trooper Tom Morris was the first Australian soldier nominated for the VC for his actions rescuing a wounded comrade at Arundel in South Africa during the Boer War in 1899. Sadly Tom never received any form of gallantry award)
  • Captain Cox, New South Wales Lancers – Gallaher Limited – The South African Series
  • Private, New South Wales Lancers – Coronel Conquerer Cigars (obverse and reverse)

 

Great Reads – ‘Somme Mud’ by Edward Lynch (2006)

Somme Mud by E.P.F.Lynch

I picked this book up off an eBay seller last week, following a recommendation from Lambis Englezos AM, who was instrumental in finding the lost Australian soldiers buried in mass graves at Fromelles in France in 2008. I met Lambis at a recent event on the Centenary of the Battle of Beersheba run by Military History & Heritage Victoria (MH&HV).

‘Somme Mud’ tells of the devastating experiences of Edward Lynch, an 18 year old Private soldier during the First World War when he served with the 45th Battalion AIF on the Western Front.

I will read it over Christmas and let you know what I think of the book in the new year.