The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Captain Peter James McCarthy, Royal Australian Corps of Transport, Australian Army, UN Middle Eastern Operations 1988.

Places
Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.344
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 10 December 2018
Access Open
Conflict United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) 1948 -
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use
Description

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on Captain Peter James McCarthy, Royal Australian Corps of Transport, Australian Army, UN Middle Eastern Operations 1988.

Speech transcript

Captain Peter James McCarthy, Royal Australian Corps of Transport, Australian Army
Killed by landmine 12 January 1988
Story delivered 10 December 2018

Today, we remember and pay tribute to Captain Peter James McCarthy of the Royal Australian Corps of Transport.

Peter McCarthy grew up in the small town of Quirindi in New South Wales. He was the eldest son of Pat and Mick McCarthy, and elder brother of Bernard and Margot. Mick had served in the Second World War and survived being a prisoner of war in Changi, great hardship as a forced labourer on the Thai-Burma railway and more forced labour in a coal mine in Japan.

Peter entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in 1975, where he acquired the nickname of "Bags" because he was so skinny his ill-fitting uniforms made him look like a "bag of potatoes". Peter completed a Bachelor of Arts degree and played volleyball and soccer for the College. In his final year won the Stoker Cup as the RMC Golf Champion.

After graduating from Duntroon, he served with the Royal Australian Corps of Transport. His first posting was to Townsville and there he met his wife, Sue. After two years in the tropics he was posted to No. 44 Transport Squadron in Devonport, Tasmania, as the Training Officer, and then back to Townsville in 1983. His daughter, Sarah, was born in Townsville before he was appointed to command a company at the Officer Cadet School in Portsea for the final year of the course there. He then moved to Duntroon in 1986 as an instructor.

In late 1986, after volunteering for duty with the United Nations, he became one of 13 Australians serving in the Middle East with UNTSO, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation. Australia has contributed personnel to UNTSO since 1956, making it our longest peacekeeping commitment. Peter was detached with four other Australians to the Observation Group Lebanon, which monitors the often-dangerous military zone in South Lebanon.

Sue and Sarah travelled with him and settled in Nahariya, northern Israel. McCarthy spent the first six months on the Observer Panel watching the Border Demarcation Line and reporting violations. At the end of this period, Peter turned down the opportunity to serve in a quieter part of UNTSO, volunteering instead to join a mobile observer team liaising between the UN and the warring parties in the area.

On 12 January 1988, McCarthy was on a routine patrol with Canadian colleague Major Gilbert Cote. During the morning they drove their jeep to a high point near the village of Chamaa in south Lebanon, several kilometres from the UN headquarters. This frequently used observation point provided excellent views north to the city of Tyre, south to the Israeli border, and west over the waters of the Mediterranean.

McCarthy and Cote had already had an eventful patrol. Their jeep had been run off the road by an Armoured Personnel Carrier while coming around a blind curve. The men in the APC helped pull their vehicle upright and they continued to the observation point. While descending the hill their jeep struck an anti-tank landmine, probably intended for Israeli or South Lebanese Army vehicles that occasionally used the track. McCarthy was killed instantly: Cote was thrown from the vehicle and seriously wounded.

Major Cote later said: "It was a crying shame. He was a young up-and-comer in the officer corps: A bloody good soldier.

Captain McCarthy was accorded a military funeral in Quirindi on 19 January 1988. Inscribed on his memorial are the words: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Later that year he was posthumously awarded the RSL’s ANZAC Peace Prize, jointly sharing the award with the Australian Defence Force. Later that year, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, honouring the many, like Captain McCarthy, who served the cause of peace.

Captain Peter McCarthy was 31 years old when he was killed and had only two more months to serve before returning to Australia for promotion and a posting in Sydney. He was a popular and professional soldier who had shown dedication and enthusiasm for his chosen career. He has been sadly missed in the last 30 years by his family, friends and mates from the RMC class of ‘78, many of whom are here today.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with 69 servicemen and women who have lost their lives on operational service. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Captain Peter McCarthy and all those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Captain Peter James McCarthy, Royal Australian Corps of Transport, Australian Army, UN Middle Eastern Operations 1988. (video)