Why I Never Became A General
After a youth spent mainly in Berlin, Germany and Sudetenland, which was then the area of Czechoslovakia settled by a mainly German speaking population, my father was given temporary employment with a German engineering firm in Kenya.
Soon after that I set out on a holiday to visit an uncle in New Zealand but, after having spent some time looking around Australia and working in an engineering firm as a machine hand, was taken to a recruiting centre by two Australian mates, who somehow succeeded in having me accepted into the Army despite my enemy status which I was able to conceal from the overworked recruiting staff.
After my initial training and a posting to Western Australia with a Tank Attack regiment, I eventually found myself in New Guinea as a member of an Infantry battalion.
Very soon after that, I was summoned before the Commanding Officer who confronted me with a document which gave an unmistakingly clear message, that I was an enemy alien who was clearly guilty of fraudulent enlistment.
It was also made quite clear to me that, if I were still on the mainland of Australia, I could well be shot by a firing squad. However, as we were engaged in operations against the Japanese, they could well attend to that job instead.
To my great relief, however, the CO made the following remark, which is still ringing in my ears to this day: "Soldier, I want you to know that, what ever may happen, you are one of us!"
He also told me that our Adjutant was an eminent lawyer, who might be able to get me out of my troubles and that I should return to my platoon and soldier on. To my great surprise and delight, my naturalisation papers arrived at Brigade headquarters from where they were conveyed to my CO who gave me some interesting advice as to what it meant to be an Australian.
Life in the Army for a common soldier is a constant struggle with authority which, with its countless regulations and orders, must enforce its will.
The wily soldiery more than often finds ways to foil its masters' means of control over it, but eventually the military authorities come out on top. However, before long, the 'oppressed' find new ways to perpetuate the eternal cycle.
As a private soldier and NCO, I felt enslaved every time I saw Routine Orders displayed on the notice boards with ever increasing volumes of what must not be done and what had to be done.
Inevitably, one's mind tends to rebel and look for loopholes of which there are usually quite a few. But as already pointed out, a new lot of orders are certain to follow etc etc !
With these observations in mind, I humbly offer some snippets concerning my life in the Army over a period of thirty-five years.
I soldiered on until the end of the war, witnessed the surrender of thousands of our enemies, and took part in the occupation of Japan, where I eventually obtained my commission as an officer in the Australian Army. I subsequently had a series of training and staff appointments and served in both the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts.
After my retirement I was recruited by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) where I was employed for almost fifteen years.
Subsequently, I worked as a guide and interpreter for visitors to the Theatres and Concert Hall of the Victorian Arts Centre.
I am currently (1998) teaching Japanese and German to TAFE students and others at Community Contact Houses.
I am Alec Weaver, married with four children and nine grandchildren.
It was on New Year's Eve in 1952 when I was Lieutenant stationed at Ingleburn, NSW, with 4 RAR.
Not having a family in Australia, I was selected as Orderly Officer for the Festive Season, which involved me in a variety of duties including the inspection of the Quarter Guard, messing arrangements and general disciplinary aspects.
The usually busy and bustling military camp was like a ghost town with only a few soldiers present. It was a lonely and rather boring existence indeed. All I could do was to telephone the odd acquaintance or friend and listen to what they still called the 'wireless'.
Just before the year had come to an end, I could not subdue my determination to see it out with a measure of elan. I therefore decided to 'fall out' the eighteen-men strong Quarter Guard and issued each man with a loaded magazine for his .303 Lee Enfield Rifle (as there were no blank rounds available, I took the risk of giving them live rounds !!).
Positioning myself in front of the guard, at precisely midnight, I drew my ceremonial sword and gave the order "Guard will fire feu de joie" ... "Commence" (which I repeated ten times because the magazines could only hold ten rounds.)
Unfortunately, the first crack of fire seemed to have shocked a passing motorcar driver causing him, with his passengers, to collide with a tree outside of the entrance to the camp, resulting in some injuries being sustained by the party.
I had taken precautions, should the live rounds accidentally cause unexpected casualties, by having an ambulance and medical orderly in attendance. He proved to be of great value in attending to the unexpected casualties when he conveyed them to the nearest hospital. I also had taken the precaution of having a fatigue party standing by to collect the spend cartridges.
In spite of the drama occasioned by my determination to greet the New Year in grand style, and the two weeks of punishment I had to undergo as Orderly Officer, I felt that I had at least left 4RAR with a bang before leaving for the Korean front!
During the Korean conflict I was commanding a rifle platoon in action against the Chinese, which frequently involved me in close combat with a determined and aggressive enemy on night patrols and other operations.
My platoon occupied a forward position at the foot of a long spur leading from the slopes of a huge feature, which was 355 metres high and was called 'Little Gibraltar'.
The immediate front of our position was covered with mines and barbed wire, which required constant observation and patrolling lest the enemy could make a breach through the obstacle.
Needless to say, the continuous bombardment of our position, as well as the nightly patrol duties, placed considerable strain upon the diggers.
Also whenever the Commanding Officer chanced to make his way through the steep and lengthy communication trench leading down to us from the high ground, he caused us additional stress by his harsh criticism of trivial aspects concerning the occupation and conduct of our defences as well as of other rather frivolous detail.
In order to prevent any further of such incursions, I had a type of scarecrow put together with cloth and wire which was supported by wheels and could be moved by signal wire.
So whenever my mates on top of the hill sent me a warning of the CO's approach, we put the contraption into motion causing the Chinese gunners and mortar men to open fire along the length of the trench. Needless to say, we had no more visitors!
When I commanded a platoon in action in Korea, I was often called upon to offer my services as a Japanese linguist as an extra-regimental duty.
This involved me in having to address and inspire Korean soldiers designated as KATCOMS (Koreans attached to the Commonwealth Division) and members of the Korean Labour Force, who were engaged in the hazardous duties of carrying wire, pickets and mines into no-man's land by night.
The needed to be inspired and suitably informed in order to obtain the necessary results from them.
I did this by using the language once used by Japanese commanders during the war with fierce rhetoric in Samurai jargon such as:
(At that time all Koreans understood Japanese, which is not the case now.)
I am certain that my Commanding Officer had no idea of what I had said, and hate to think of his reactions had he known what it was.
Somehow it was brought to the notice of the General commanding the British Commonwealth Division that I spoke Japanese. Accordingly, his Australian aide contacted me by way of a rather complex system of communication, necessitating my presence at the headquarters of my commanding officer.
It turned out that the General, who was about to go on R+R to Japan, wanted to know what to spell out (phonetically) in Japanese for:
The aide also warned me not to let anyone know what had been said!
Of course, my CO demanded to know what the General's Staff wanted with a lowly platoon commander.
I told him that the General had forbidden me to divulge the contents of the conversation, which was strictly between his Staff and myself!
The CO gave me a murderous look, but told me to get out of his sight and return to my platoon position.
I think that he always glanced at me with a measure of awe after that incident.
When the armistice came into effect only one officer out of thousands in the Division was to be posted to Panmunjom to supervise the exchange of prisoners. (I wonder why it was I who was selected despite my junior rank!)
After the demilitarised zone separating the forces of the United Nations and the Chinese-Koreans was established, both sides erected observation towers from which all violations were observed, noted and finally collated and presented at Panmunjom to the various representatives of the belligerents.
Once again I was selected to be the first officer of our brigade to be given control of a special force to man the towers on a roster basis and to attend to the administration of the reporting system and the discipline over the troops allocated to me.
My small headquarters were located in an attractively erected hut in which I had large wall charts with the appropriate pins depicting the various sightings made by my observers.
To my annoyance, however, a certain over inquisitive senior officer, who was not directly concerned with the project, kept visiting me and rummaged amongst the many documents on my desk, taking copious notes and asking constant irrelevant questions.
In order to teach the pest a lesson I got my sergeant, who was a graphic artist, to draw a picture portraying three flying saucers nestling in the DMZ, with the odd obscure figure standing around then. I then had several copies of it placed on my desk with notations of the timings of their appearances.
Surely, as expected, the officer appeared one late evening. I excused myself saying that I had to man the tower for the next hour.
When I returned, one copy was missing.
I was later told by the Intelligence Officer, who had witnessed the scene, how red the sticky-beak's face had become when he presented his 'triumph' to the Commanding Officer.
He never again bothered us at my detachment !!
When I was posted to take charge of an R+R Centre on the Japanese Inland Sea island of Miyajima, I found on my arrival there that the British Union Jack was flying proudly from an imposing high mast to be seen far and wide.
I was fully aware that the flag represented the fact that the establishment was an integral part of the British Commonwealth Forces and as such was befittingly subject to the display of the appropriate emblems.
Nevertheless, I could not restrain myself from rebelling against such idea, and took the unprecedented step of getting my staff to speedily obtain the largest possible Australian flag for me by the next available watercraft.
I then had my Australian and British staff and my around one hundred and fifty Japanese employees paraded to witness a ceremonial hoisting of the Australian flag.
I had also ensured that representatives of the Press serving the interests of all Commonwealth troops stationed in Japan and Korea covered the event. I also sent a signal to the Commander of our Forces with the words:
Needless to say, the wrath and indignation expressed by our British 'masters' had no bounds and was expressed by loud protestations to the Australian Brigadier commanding the Australian component in the region.
He, in turn, severely chided me in a strongly worded signal, but as he failed to mention that I should reinstate the Union Jack to its rightful place, I took no further action.
I heard later that my rather undiplomatic act became the subject of rather heated arguments between British and Australian officers and other ranks throughout the theatre of war, often resulting in the odd physical encounters.
As already stated, after my service in the Korean war, I was posted as the commander of an R+R Centre situated on the Japanese Inland Sea island of Miyajima, which is a charming idyllic place of international acclaim widely publicised by its imposing Torii (a 'gateway' situated in the sea).
It was a plum posting, which involved me in the supervision and administration of about 150 Japanese employees whose duties were concerned with the various tasks essential for the running of such an establishment.
Although the soldiers and officers who were visiting the Centre were generally well behaved, there was the inevitable drunk disturbing the usual serenity of the island.
As there was no way in which such nuisances could be restrained in the flimsily constructed buildings, I had my carpenter construct a set of stocks (or pillory) with its stilts placed in the water.
It was then possible to place the offenders into the stocks, with their hands and head placed in the apertures provided for the purpose. They would stay in that contraption until the tide reached their chin!
It all went well, until a British soldier complained to his superiors about his treatment thus bringing about a Court of Inquiry headed by a Brigadier. After all it turned out to be an international incident, although one confined to two Commonwealth countries!
The inquiries were conducted on the island and lasted for eight days and nights, because the Brigadier enjoyed his break in the delightful setting as well as (for rather curious reasons) my company, during the hours of leisure when I acted as his interpreter during his tete-a-tete-a-tete with the local Japanese beauties.
I will never know what the outcome of the inquiry was, but I was promoted and became an aide to the Commander-in Chief after my 'dignified' departure from the island which was honored by a most sumptuous farewell party given to me by the Japanese employees.
At one stage during my time as Commander of the Miyajima R+R Centre, I was confronted with the daunting task of having to accommodate the Commander-in-Chief, his wife and the French ambassador with his young attractive wife, for two days and nights.
No only was that a rather tall order, but it gave me great concern as to the ability of my staff to satisfy their creature comforts, culinary needs and other aspects rather important for their fullest enjoyment of their holiday on that most pleasant and idyllic of islands situated in the Japanese Inland Sea.
Fortunately my Japanese and military staff came to the party in grand style and all went extremely well from the very beginning right up to the end, when the Generalpraisedd my efforts and those of my dedicated staff which he later confirmed by letter.
When, on their departure, I conveyed the ambassador and his lady by jeep to the ferry, the lady gave me a somewhat passionate kiss saying: "Captain, it is so wonderful, it is zee first time zat I have been ridden in zee jeep!"
I later heard the ambassador give her a lesson on the passive tense of the English verb and asked her what she had been up to the night before!
Although everything did function superbly well, it was mainly so because I was able to ensure that two bawdy, drunken British soldiers were not noticed by the dignitaries.
I achieved that by getting my military police to tie them up, place them in a canoe and push it into an inlet remotely situated from the Centre, well out of harm's way.
When our distinguished visitors had finally departed in the late afternoon, I celebrated my success with the officers in our mess until well into the wee hours of the next day.
To my shock and distress, however, the MP sergeant knocked at the door just before dawn saying in his so typical British Army style:
To which he said:
Needless to say, I immediately saw myself facing acourts-martiall with serious consequences affecting my future career in the Army.
To see those wretched and sorry sights of the soldiers after their ordeal was not at all a pleasant experience, but I had to keep my composure leaving the MPs to deal with the delicate matter of hushing the affair up in the best way possible.
Luckily enough they were able to do so by means of their well honed 'expertise' in such matters!!
I was a privileged member of a few aides assigned to the Commander-in-Chief of the British Commonwealth Forces in Korea.
His official Residence was located in Japan and was largely used to receive senior allied officers ad diplomatic dignitaries.
In order to create a befittingambiancee, the General had a venerable elderly lady, dressed in an appropriately designed Kimono, posted at the front door to open it for his visitors.
She performed her simple but important duties with dignity and precision, taking a deep bow without uttering an English word.
On one occasion, she asked me what she could say in the English language by way of a welcoming greeting, to which I carefully and precisely instructed her to say: '
"Oh, my bloody back"
I believe that she blissfully continued doing so to the astonished amusement of the various visitors throughout the General's occupancy of the Residence.
I am also certain that he was never made aware of my prank and its outcome before it was brought to his notice many years later by a senior Army officer.
He often reminded me of the incident over the years after his retirement and did so in good humour.
Largely because of my knowledge of the Japanese language and culture, I was privileged to be appointed as one of the Aides to the Commander-in Chief of the British Commonwealth Forces in Korea.
My duties included accompanying the General on liaison visits to United States military headquarters, which involved us in being lavishly entertained.
On one occasion, I was seated next to a most attractive young English female liaison officer whilst dining with our American hosts.
She told my General that she was interested in being introduced to the sights of Tokyo whilst in Japan, to which the General told her that I was the right man for the task, offering his staff car and driver.
Having indulged myself in copious Martinis, I could not restrain myself from feeling her tender thighs under the starched tablecloth during the meal, which she did not seem to mind at all.
However, after I had been a little too bold in my affections, she daintily took a small business card from her purse and placed it into my hand under the tablecloth, accompanying her action with a charming smile.
I then surreptitiously glanced at the card, to be confronted with the daintily written message, which read as follows: "Digger, do not register surprise should you touch my testicles! Carruthers MI 5"
Once again, love's labour lost! Luckily, the General had to fly to Korea unexpectedly, taking me with him.
Not long after that he offered his staff car to me when I was courting my Meg. She preferred, however, to go by Jeep!
Whilst working for the Commander-in-Chief of the British Commonwealth Forces in Korea the headquarters of which were situated in Japan, I was entrusted with the task of officially returning to the Japanese authorities all real estate hitherto occupied by our Forces.
At that time all British Commonwealth Forces were gradually withdrawing from Japan after over ten years occupation of Japanese real estate and related installations.
As the handing over of the various installations had to be a gradual one over a lengthy period, each unit commander was given about ten months warning before the actual hand-over day to enable him to make the appropriate preparations for withdrawal.
One night when the Australian adjutant of a crusty old British Colonel had a few drinks with me, we decided to play a prank on the Colonel, which meant that I was to ring him on April Fool's Day telling him that I and a Japanese delegation would be over to see him to conduct the hand-over of his establishment.
It was planned that when the good Colonel was about to burst out in indignation and furor that my friend was to enter his office showing him a card saying 'Sorry Sir, it's April Fool's Day'
Unfortunately, the adjutant failed to remember our plan, which resulted in the Colonel storming into my General's office with loud protestations.
When I was summoned before the General I had to explain how my plan with the adjutant had misfired, upon which I was curtly dismissed, leaving the irate Colonel with my General.
Oddly enough, I heard no more of the matter, and suspect that the General told the Colonel not to be so gullible ... on April Fool's Day.
During the National Service era I found myself in Puckapunyal with six platoons each consisting of sixty recruits organized as a Training Company within a Battalion of a further four Companies comprising somewhat smaller numbers.
In order to be able to afford each trainee the optimum opportunity of becoming proficient in handling his weapon, it was necessary to provide him with sufficient ammunition.
Unfortunately, ammunition was strictly rationed, thus making it a most eagerly sought commodity.
My soldiers had to be trained in the use of the old .303 Lee Enfield Rifle, the Bren Light Machine Gun and the Vickers Medium Machine Gun, the last two mentioned ones being virtual 'ammo guzzlers'.
Well, on a beautiful sunny day on the firing range, it was brought to my notice that a truck carrying the entire battalion's ammunition supply, including Mortar Bombs, was parked near by.
The temptation to indulge myself in a little skullduggery completely overwhelmed me causing me to have the God-given booty confiscated, unloaded and concentrated as a temporary arsenal from where each soldier and gun and mortar group was issued with a most generous supply of the coveted prize!
I then lined the 360 strong body of raw recruits up, along a lengthy creek bed and, positioning myself on a tree stump, gave the order:-
The result of those few words was overwhelming to say the least! The terrifying first crack of the fire was deafening and the cordite impregnated air continued toprevaill for over a full hour whilst all trees on the far bank were cut down by the withering fire emanating form the weapons in the hands of the 'bloodthirsty' andecstaticallyy motivated soldiery.
When the last shots had been fired and the last mortar bombs exploded, the scenewass reminiscent of an abandoned battlefield, with thousands of spent cartridges, a large number of emptied ammunition boxes littering the field intermingled with empty bandoleers.
Not only had I completely looted the entire unit's annual ammunition supply, but I had also caused the utter destruction of the rifle bores which had not withstood the overheating caused by the sustained firing over such a long period.
In fact, when I had to order "For Inspection Port Arms" and "ExamineArmss", the rifles were too hot to hold by the soldiers when they had to prove that all ammunition had been expended. They could only hold their rifles by their slings!
All rifles had to be pronounced 'unserviceable' and had to be replaced. The ammunition was only partially replaced by a reluctant and miserly General Staff demanding that a Court ofInquiryy be appointed to probe into the 'flagrant disregard of the regulations governing the proper preservation of equipment and accountability for ammunition holdings'.
As there was only little ammunition left in Southern Command, it was considered inappropriate to have me shot by firing squad, but I was told that I would be informed of the cost I had incurred against the Commonwealth which I would have to make good in due course.
It seems that the whole matter died a natural death in the 'fog of war'.
When I commanded a Training Company of National Service trainees as part of a five-Company Battalion, I was faced with the problem of motivating my troops in such a way as to have an edge over their rivals of the other four companies.
Because of the intense rivalry in all aspects of sport, military skills and general status, I considered that the morale factor deserved particular attention in addition to effective training and administrative achievements.
I had always been impressed by the effectiveness of the careful selection of slogans to inspire groups of people, and therefore recollected an experience I had when on loan to a recruit training establishment in the US Army where the Commander stood in front of his troops every morning shouting: "Battalion! What do you say?" to which they shouted in unison: "Shoot to Kill".
I decided to adopt that slogan, which my troops had to shout every time I or any of my officers or NCOs shouted the word: "Enemy".
It worked like a charm and created solidarity among my troops to the envy of all my rival company commanders, who could not think of a more effective slogan.
Accordingly, when each company and platoon was conducting a field exercise on the Training Range, which involved the occupation of defensive positions, with orders to attempt attacking one another, I devised a plan that would prove to be devastating to our adversaries.
I selected only one particular 'enemy' position to be attacked, instead of dissipating my force in penny packets, assaulting that one every hour by a fresh platoon of the six under my command.
They kept their attacks up from 9pm until the next morning at 6am, screaming their battle cry whilst destroying all carefully prepared sleeping and observation positions and capturing weapons, rations, blankets and everything in sight.
They were briefed by me to "take no prisoners" which they did with great relish!
It is also worthy of note, that the men occupying the various other 'enemy' positions, although not subjected to the attacks had a sleepless night, disturbed by the noises of the ongoing battle and being concerned of what awaited them. My own positions could not be attacked, as I did not have one, merely using forces in an attacking role and resting them well out of reach whilst waiting for their turn to attack again and again.
During my service with a National Service Training unit, I had a dedicated staff comprising highly professional instructors whose lot it was to spend many long hours on duty training and administering their recruits.
They needed a certain amount of inspiration in order to help them overcome the monotony of their work.
When a new intake of National Servicemen was taken into the field for training, we arranged for an 'execution' by firing squad of one of my corporals who, in their presence, was subjected to a 'court martial' and summarily shot.
The 'corpse' was then ceremoniously conveyed by stretcher bearers to a waiting ambulance with his 'blood splattered' body in full view of the dumbstruck and overawed rookies who interpreted the incident as being a warning of what awaited them should they dare to transgress.
Unfortunately some of them referred the incident to their parents who took the expected action to bring it to the notice of the appropriate authorities.
It must be realized that good public relations with the community were paramount requirements at that time, when compulsory national service was a highly politicized subject.
Accordingly, I had to suffer the appropriate chastisement by my commanding officer, to which he himself had been subjected by the highest military authorities for my 'atrocities'.
My first duty to be performed on the morning after the birth of our first born son, Iain, was to supervise a range practice involving the throwing of hand grenades.
Such practices must be conducted strictly in accordance with meticulously prepared safety regulations.
However, on that occasion, all precautions were thrown to the winds, when my Company Sergeant Major and some of my Lieutenants had my troops form a guard of honour by lining the route of my approach and by giving me three hearty cheers.
So far, so good! But that was not enough for me and I took the great risk of lining twenty-one soldiers up in a line ordering them to throw their grenades and quickly hit the ground.
When this escapade came to the notice of the Commanding Officer, he was of course not amused, to say the least.
When I assured him that it would never happen again, as such a risky venture would only be engaged in for a first-born son, he seemed to feel somewhat relieved!!
I was administering a CMF (Reserve Army) Company, based in the Shepparton-Echuca-Cobram region, during 1960-62.
On one occasion, when a Battle Group exercise was being conducted at Puckapunyal (which is situated about eighty km from Shepparton) I was made responsible to convey a small Wileys Cooker containing the entire evening meal designed for 180 hungry young men, to the exercise area.
Not being aware of anything remotely connected with centrifugal force, not to speak of any aspects appertaining to the art of driving a horseless contraption, I lost control of the trailer, which forced my Landrover and itself into a ditch spilling the contents all over the bloody highway!
(No doubt, the crows and magpies and the odd stray dog had a grand picnic on that day!)
After I eventually righted the vehicle with the help of a few young farmers, I proceeded to the exercise area, blaming an invented truck for having forced me off the road.
The exercise was considerably aborted, when the Commander decided to allow the troops to take advantage of whatever the Canteen Service could make available for whatever the diggers could afford.
I have never again attempted to involve myself in such risky ventures, particularly if they involve the all important matter of having to satisfy the culinary needs of our soldiery!
As a Regular Army Officer, I was always aware of the high standards of propriety expected from my peers and me.
In those days, one was reminded of the axiom that: - 'A gentleman owns up, pays up and shuts up'.
It was also considered beyond the pale, if an officer failed to pay his debts and, furthermore, if the officer persisted in tarnishing the Army's escutcheon in such a manner, he could face being drummed out of the honourable service.
Unfortunately, I was put into a rather complex situation when my second born son came into this world.
His birth occurred whilst I was absent from the scene and unaware of the details of his arrival until the following day. Meg, my wife, was visiting her parents in Warburton when our child appeared suddenly and without warning.
Meg attended to the 'arrival' and drove herself and child to the nearest hospital.
When I was eventually presented with the hospital account, I noticed to my surprise and shock that I wachargedgd with a substantial sum under the heading of Labour Fees which I was determined not to pay, notwithstanding any protocol. I indignantly indicated that my won was practically born on the hospital's lawn and that my wife did at no time occupy the Labour Ward.
Eventually, however, I had no way of avoiding my responsibility, when I received an amended version of the account which had a stroke through the item stating Labour Fees replaced by the new version of Green Fees.
I was happy to be able to own up, pay up and shut up, without bringing shame upon my honourable profession.
After my disastrous effort of spilling all over the road the entire evening meal meant for the consumption of about 180 young, hungry part-time soldiers on field exercises, I was posted to Darwin as the General Staff Officer (GSO II)
Consequently, it fell upon me to attend to the receipt and appropriate dispatch to higher authority of all Top Secret correspondence relating to the emergency which also threatened the port of Darwin and its approaches.
Of course it was not I who was in command of Northern Territory Command. It was the position of an Army Service Corps Lieutenant Colonel of a belligerent and fiery temperament.
During his rather frequent absences on conferences in Canberra or on reconnaissance trips, I took it upon myself to make decisions as to the drafting of threat assessments and requests for military support.
Of course none of the signals sent to Canberra bore the commander's signature and were therefore accepted as the voice of the commander.
I often introduced myself to our civilian contacts as being the senior combatant officer in Northern Territory Command; much to the annoyance of the good Colonel, who repeatedly threatened me with serious consequences should I continue to perpetuate the myth.
Unfortunately, however, the damage had been done, and despite all my efforts to stop it, I continued to be referred to in that way by all and sundry, much to the amusement of other infantry officers.
When the Indonesian Confrontation was at its heights and concerns were being voiced from Canberra, I took it upon myself to order a Battery of anti-aircraft guns together with artillery instructors and large amounts of ammunition of all kinds.
To my commander's wrath and shock, the request was speedily acceded to and irreversibly put into effect.
It was then too late to do anything about it all, and the Commander had to see to it that a training as well as deployment scheme had to be put into effect.
A few years later, I met a Brigadier who had been on the General Staff, when my signals were being studied. He told me that he was often asked as to why such extraordinary demands had been made by Northern Territory Command at that time in history. (He told me that when my name came up, it caused a lot of mirth and understanding)
Luckily, the Indonesians did not bother us and I went on a long visit of Europe, finding myself reposted to New South Wales on my return.
When I was serving on the headquarters staff of a recruit training battalion, I was given the task of selecting a suitable Regimental March for the unit.
It was considered appropriate to have such a march so that those recruits could be given suitable inspirational musical accompaniments for their graduation ceremonies.
I felt that the recruits needed to be afforded band music, which contained an adequate amount of drumbeats to keep them in step with much 'oompah-pha'!
For that reason, I obtained the musical score for the old Prussian march with the appropriate title of 'Prussia's Glory' (Preussens Gloria) and in order to conceal its actual origin, I had our bandmaster add a short score of 'The English Rose' to its arrangement.
The concept required suitable assent from Army Headquarters, which is not easily obtained before the matter has been given the closest of scrutiny.
I had taken the precaution of concealing the origin of the musical arrangement, by giving it the title of 'Rose Gloria'!
After the official assent had been given, the band played the march on every parade for the graduating platoons each week as well as for the grand annual event.
The arrangement also required a 'Glockenspiel' (a type of vertically held xylophone, adorned with trappings) which I was able to purchase out of Regimental Funds.
Unfortunately, the fickle finger of fate proved to put me in the firing line yet again when representatives of various European migrants who had been subjected during World War II to their German invaders' constant incursions accompanied by bands playing that very march, lodged their objections by way of their political representatives.
My Commanding Officer was required to explain what was looked upon as having been a most thoughtless and indelicate decision, offensive to a large number of migrants who had suffered great indignation and suffering at the hands of the German military machine.
Fortunately, he and I were already in Vietnam when the 'muck hit the fan' and his successor was able to explain that music, poetry and the arts transcend all borders and time.
It is now often brought to my notice that, because of my initial foray into martial music, every Australian military band can boast having a Glockenspiel.
Also 'Rose Gloria' is widely played by those bands on many occasions without any further objections, thanks to the passage of time!
Ach, Gott Im Himmel, how pleased our dear old Kaiser would have been!
There was the occasion when a number of newly commissioned National Service 2nd Lieutenants were posted as platoon commanders to a large recruit training battalion where I was employed as an administrative officer with the rank of Major.
These young men had completed an arduous course of induction prior to being selected as junior officers for the period of their compulsory service term.
They were often subjected to a measure of mild hazing by certain somewhat overbearing officers, but generally enjoyed the benefits of kindly offered guidance.
There was, however, one Major who was wont to harass them in the evenings by visiting them in the mess making them engage in activities such as having to hang from rafters to the order: "subalterns aloft" as well as having to engage in 'push-ups' and similar activities.
He also barked degrading insults with scurrilous invectives relating to their lowly rank at them.
The senior subaltern visited me in my quarters one night asking me for advice as to what could be done to put a stop to such harassment, which prompted me to come up with a plan of action resulting in the following farce.
We selected an evening when a new sergeant of the quarter-guard at the gate to the barracks was on duty and therefore not aware of the good Major's identity.
He was told that a man wearing civilian clothes would call out: "Fall out the Guard" (this having been the Major's habit when on his way to harass the young officers). The sergeant was told that he was to ask the major-in-mufti to identify himself and if he would claim to be a Major giving a somewhat common name such as Smith, Jones, Brown or the like, to report the matter to the orderly officer by telephone for instructions. As it turned out, it was on a rainy evening when the Major, carrying his umbrella and clad in civilian attire, approached the guard room calling out his usual challenge and, when questioned by the newly arrived sergeant, gave his rank and name (which was a rather common one).
The sergeant excused himself and contacted the orderly officer, who happened to be the very one whom I had briefed for the execution of the operation.
The young officer instructed the sergeant to place the 'pretender' under close arrest, which his rather raw recruits did with great gusto brandishing their bayonets ushering him unceremoniously into a cell amongst his loud protestations.
He was not released before reveille, but was hardly in a position to lodge a complaint.
Because of my involvement in the setting up of the operation, I had to rely on the discretion and loyalty of the subalterns' 'clique', which fortunately was afforded me.
Needless to say, the young subalterns had no more incursions into their leisure hours.
Whilst in Vietnam 1 had to travel by Landrover with my driver on a daily basis through the general area under the control of our forces.
My tours often took me over narrow roads winding through thickly wooded plantation and and rain forest. On a particular occasion, we were confronted by a cyclist unexpectedly crossing the track.
I said to the driver: "Run him down like a mongrel dog" which was a jocular utterance often made by me without actually meaning it.
The driver carried out my 'command' with great speed and momentum, seriously wounding the cyclist; whereupon we threw the body into the back of the Landrover, conveighing him to our field hospital where he died.
At that time, for obvious political reasons, the Commander of Australian Forces in Vietnam, was determined to make an example of anyone who had to answer charges of negligence on the roads which would result in death or wounding of members of the local population.
As 1 had only a few days to serve in Vietnam before the end of my twelve month tour of duty, I was confronted with the prospects of a Court Martial which was highly likely because the driver gave evidence to the Court of Enquiry that 1 had used the words which prompted him to act accordingly. (Incidentally, the driver was a conscript!!)
This, of course, left me little with which to prepare my defence.
But Lady Luck came to my aid, when our Intelligence Unit found out that the cyclist was a wanted Viet Cong officer.
Therefore I immediately changed my statement by saying that I had recognised the deceased from the 'mug shots' l had studied in the past and, not having had time to draw my pistol, ordered the driver to act accordingly.
I was praised for my presence of mind and free to return into the arms of my dear family at last.
I was a Major at that time and remained ever thus. My Commanding Officer often called me " Major Disaster"
During my service in Vietnam, I was temporarily assigned the task of acting as the president of a court-martialspecificallyly designed to try soldiers on active service, who had to answer varietyty of charges.
The courtroom was a simple 'Nissen Hut' located on sand dunes adjacent to the sea somewhat reminiscent of a 'Beau Geste' scene in the French colonial scene of the Foreign Legion.
Immediately next to that hut was a small firing range designed for firing practices with small machineguns and revolvers.
The constant crack of the firing was most irritating and seriously disturbed my train of thought whilst attempting to hear the evidence presented against a soldier who had deserted his post whilst on active service.
I was sorely tempted to dramatise the issue and to my eventual regret instructed the court orderly as follows:-
"Sergeant-Major! Please instruct the firing squad to stop practising!"
The accused went pale and was near collapse and his defending counsel, who was a qualified lawyer, requested an adjournment, which I denied him.
Although the accused was eventually sentenced to twenty-eight days field punishment by my court, the legal officer's report to higher authority had the result of having me barred from any further court duties, not to speak of the rather curse rebuke meted out by me by the convening authority.
The occasional reader of this rather randomly produced autobiographical diary must wonder why I have confessed to having perpetrated so many follies and what my motivation for them actually was.
The answer to that can possibly be found in the introduction to this collection in which I, under "A Humble Beginning" made the observation as to how the constant constraints put upon one in the military services tend to encourage a certain measure of rebellion.
That was certainly the case with me, although I did obtain good results in dealing with my subordinates, who to this day show their respect and friendship toward me.
I also received good annual 'confidential reports' from my superiors both in war and peacetime service over thiry-five years. And also enjoy the closest of friendships with a large number of former fellow officers and their families.
Finally, I must quote one of my commanders, who said to me in my latter years in the Army:
And with that in mind, I do regret not having been promoted to the rank of General in the Australian Army, which has been my entire adult life and to which my family and I are eternally wed.
Just imagine, dear reader, what mayhem I could have caused on the national as well as the international scene, had I been entrusted with such a position!
I challenge you to let your imagination go wild and perhaps to give me some befitting suggestions.
Major Alec Weaver, Royal Australian Regiment (Ret)
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