Representing the Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Sergeant Hayden Inwood commenced reading at 4.45 am.
Sergeant Jack Sim, 39th Battalion, describes the conditions along the Kokoda Trail:
Oh it was murderous.
It was that hard.
You know what was our worst enemy – the terrain. You perspired all day.
At 4 o’clock in the afternoon it would rain so you were continually wet.
And it was cold at night.
It was so cold at night and boiling hot in the day time.
Some prayed, some swore, with fear – but you couldn’t show it in front of your mates.
One of the boys got shot fair between the eyes right alongside of me.
It was a perfect shot.
They used to attack us by screaming out.
Terrible to be afraid.
Yet it’s the brave ones that are afraid and still keep going.
That’s what they did you know.
Scared bloody stiff and still kept going.
They were so young.
They were so young.
I loved them all.
Nobody went to that war, or any other I suppose, that didn’t get wounded mentally if not physically.
It wasn’t possible.
On the 10th of January 1943, Salvation Army Chaplain R. Smith, 2nd 9th Australian General Hospital, wrote a letter home from New Guinea:
Although I find this work a great strain I am grateful for the opportunity of serving these men.
I do not believe there has ever been a campaign when men have suffered hardship, privation and incredible difficulties as in this one.
To see these men arrive here wounded and ill from terrible tropical diseases, absolutely exhausted, clothes in tatters and filthy, long matted hair and beards ... no description of their incredible suffering could possibly be an exaggeration...
I have seen so much suffering and sorrow here that more than ever I have realised the tragedy of war and the heroism of our men.
Lieutenant Colin Kahn, 1st Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, was wounded during a night patrol in Korea on the 11th of November 1952:
I remember dying.
I went up into the air and I saw myself lying on that hill, dead.
I was in no pain; I was terribly content and happy.
I thought of my wife and I thought I had to come back – and then it all started to hurt.
Writing many years after the Korean War, Sergeant Brian Cooper, recipient of the Military Medal, recalled his time serving with 2RAR:
I believe the experience I had of war in Korea, at the age of 19 years, had a more profound effect on my personal life and subsequent behaviour than any other event, before or since.
That experience shaped my personality in ways I think I would have preferred to have avoided, and much of what I was when I returned from Korea is still with me today.
Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Argent, recalled his time serving with 3RAR in Korea:
Just on 5 November – it was a bitterly cold night to start off with – and after our soldiers came back off the hills, across the paddy fields to the road where we were, somebody up in the hills – and I’ve no idea who it was now,– played The Last Post – this is, say, about midnight, something like that.
I know one of the men who was killed up there, or died of wounds up there - was an Australian bugler.
Now, whether he played The Last Post, whether it was an Argyll ... I can only assume it was somebody who’d been left up there and he played The Last Post.
Quite sad really.
Private Brian Halls, national serviceman, 5th Section, 11th Platoon, Delta Company, 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, interviewed in November 1984 about the battle of Long Tan on the 18th of August 1966
It was the first contact we’d had...
Because we’d trained so well before going to Vietnam, it was a natural reaction bred into us.
We all went to cover. Section commanders took control and moved us back.
For the full duration we were out there by ourselves, it was very well controlled.
Everybody knew what the bloke next to him was doing, and how he was reacting, and how you were reacting. It was like a very tight family – we all worked together...
That control came from [Lieutenant] Sharp, down through the section commanders, and even after Sharp was killed the control was there in [Sergeant] Bob Buick who took over the platoon.
Captain Tony White, 5RAR’s Battalion Medical Officer, was the first doctor on the scene of a landmine incident in South Vietnam on the 21st of February 1967:
Ten metres away the APC lay on its side. Its back door had been blown off and nearby lay what at first glance seemed to be a pile of discarded uniforms, blackened and dusty.
Getting closer I realised that the heap was composed of dead and wounded soldiers.
In amongst the carnage, I came across the body of Mick Poole. He had just turned 20 and was a favourite with village kids because of his cheeky good humour.
He played the tenor horn in the battalion band. On patrol, bandsmen acted as stretcher-bearers and provided first aid.
I caught up with the B company medic, and three more stretcher-bearers, all dazed and wounded but getting on with tackling what lay at hand.
Seven Australian soldiers died and 28 were wounded, two of whom later died of their wounds
Many years after that event, Private Ross Wood, 5RAR, recalled that terrible incident:
There was a lot of sadness as we all knew our mates who had been hit, and the deathly silence in the company position as that last Iroquois with the bodies on board, flew slowly low over our position seemed to last forever.
Sergeant Terry Pickard, Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, describes his experience in Kibeho while serving with the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda in 1995:
I saw Jordo yelling and waving at one child who was confused about which way to go.
Jordo was trying to get this boy to come to us but he was so scared that he froze.
With so many rounds flying around he would not have lasted long.
It was then that I saw Jordo do the most amazing and bravest thing I have ever witnessed.
He ran to the boy, who was stuck in an area under intense fire, grabbed him in both arms and ran back to us.
Jordo put the boy in the back of the truck where Nico was looking after several refugees awaiting evacuation to the landing zone.
He then went back to the patient he had been treating as if nothing had happened.
A member of the Special Air Service Regiment describes the actions of a comrade in the Chora Pass 2006.
The boys were taking a pasting, recoilless rifle, mortar, machine gun and RPG fire was pouring in that’s when one of our cars was hit with an RPG!
Out of the three of them he was the only one left unscathed, the crew commander got it the worst, took some bad shrapnel in the neck and face and fell out of the car, and even with all that fire coming in, he just ran around to the exposed side of the car and picked his crew commander up, put him back in the vehicle and held onto him as he drove through the most horrendous fire to get the boys to safety - mateship at its finest!
SGT C Fallon, Ordinance Corp, Rotary Wing Group Kandahar
At this moment I am proud, proud of my wife and her efforts back home, proud of my country, proud that I am serving my country, proud of my mates’ service and proud of the sacrifices we all make in order to serve.
As the unmistakable thud of the ‘chook’ taking off resonates around the airfield, I close my eyes and say a little prayer for the team heading out and wish them well as they head into the darkness.
I will catch a couple of hours sleep and do it all over again, because this is what I do, and where I want to be.
Squadron Leader Sharon Bown, commander of a RAAF Combat Surgical Team in Afghanistan in 2008, reflecting on her service:
I have awaited their return and tended their wounds, never able to fully comprehend the darkness of man that they encountered upon their journey.
I have witnessed their adrenaline fuelled highs of survival and their immense depths of despair at the loss of a mate.
I have laughed reservedly at the often black-humoured stories of soldiers who photograph their legs before a patrol, just in case they never saw them again; and faced the reality of their need to loosely wear a tourniquet on each limb, ready to stem the almost inevitable haemorrhage that could end their life.
I have been privileged to hear of unimaginable acts of bravery and self-preservation; and I have stood by silently to attempt to pick up the pieces when it all falls apart.
I have worn their blood.
So many of us have worn their blood.
Note about copyright
The content within these readings is protected by copyright. If you wish to use or quote from these extracts, please contact the Memorial’s Research Centre via firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 6243 4315.