Wartime 44 - Mail Call (page 5)
Elizabeth Stewart’s article about the first attack on FSB Coral (Wartime 43) says that a troop of Centurion tanks was sent to Coral. This is incorrect: it was a squadron. Balmoral was not defended by only 3RAR but also by C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment, an ARV, a fitters vehicle, and a troop of APCs, all supported by helicopters, artillery, and Canberra Bombers, a fact often overlooked.
I find it hard to believe that two major attacks on a small FSB by up to two regiments can be described as having been “easily defeated”, and I have recently been told by senior officers present at Balmoral that without the four tanks of 2 Troop the Australian casualties could have been in the hundreds.
The Centurion tank shown in the photo (callsign “32”) was not “heading to Coral” but was in fact on the perimeter of Coral a very large sprawling FSB.
Received by email
Elizabeth Stewart replies: Mr Dyson is correct that it was a squadron of Centurion tanks sent to Coral, not a troop. He is also right in saying that there were elements other than 3RAR defending Balmoral. Unfortunately, space considerations prevented the inclusion of every detail about the action. Our photographic curators are reviewing the caption for the photograph of the Centurion tank.
In his Reflections column in Wartime 43, Steve Gower writes that he sought a report from the Memorial’s Military History Section on the question of whether the Memorial should recognise Australia’s frontier wars. The naming of me as the head of section at the time is inaccurate. I had nothing to do with that report. In fact, I was detached from the section as “Concept Leader” to theSecond World War gallery, and though having researched the frontier wars was not consulted. I have made my personal view clear, in books and papers over many years,that the frontier wars are a part of Australia’s military history that the Memorial ought to document and interpret.
Steve Gower replies: Whether or not Peter Stanley was detached from his section is immaterial. The report’s purpose was not as he asserts: rather it sought to present all details of Australian colonial military involvement. As it happened, none could be identified. I respect Stanley’s long-held views, but if he has any evidence-based material to contribute, it would be welcome now, just as it would have been ten years ago. I would be surprised if the researcher had not examined any relevant work of his.
A reader’s discovery
I was surprised to see the photo of myself (on the left) and my “sea daddy” Darby Jennings at work in “A” cordite handling room in Hobart in Wartime 43. This photo was taken when we were in action at Brunei in June ’45. The Memorial’s text refers to me as an “OD” whereas I was made “AB” on 11 April 45.
Darby and I were the only sandgropers in the 11 members of 3 mess on the foc’s’le mess deck. Unfortunately, we lost Darby a few years back and I know that two others, Dusty Miller and Thor Gauslaa, have passed on. I am in communication with messmate Jack Thomas. If any other of the rest of the mess, namely, Cain, Davies, Gibson, Legge, Straughair, Williams, should happen to read this I would love to hear from them; my phone no. is (08) 9381 8705.
Regarding the Sydney, as the bridge was demolished early in the action, the tannoy system would have been inoperative; as there would have been no order to abandon ship the crew would have remained at their posts until the end.
Shenton Park, WA