Warrant Officer Stanley was awarded a Military Medal for his service in Korea and on return to Australia completed his long and distinguished military career in various senior warrant appointments. He retired to the Ingleburn area where he is still prominent in Regimental and veteran activities.
I suppose one could say that having taken part in WW2 as an infantryman in the ranks of rifleman, section commander and platoon sergeant in the 2/12th Battalion from 1942 - 1946, and being involved in the battles of Milne Bay, Buna, Sananda, Shaggy Ridge, Balikpapen and Borneo, one would think that Operation Commando would be just another operation in the life of an Infantry soldier. But this was not the case. Commando was exceptional in its intensity, courage shown and results achieved.
C Company at the time was in the main all young regular soldiers, who had not yet had the experience of war behind them. As the training and patrolling proceeded we could sense the buildup to something big before the onset of winter. We spent a lot of time in "O" Groups sorting out problems and weaknesses we knew we had in the Company.
We had a new Company Commander, Major Jack Gerke, who I did not know a lot about, but what I heard I liked. The platoon commanders were all young RMC graduates who, understandably at that stage, needed guidance and advice. A Company patrol across the Imjin when we came under artillery fire was a big test. From that day on we had no trouble getting men to dig in. I developed great faith in my officers but had some doubts about one or two senior NCOs. We were now ready for whatever the CO might give us to do.
Much has been said about the duties of a CSM but, as I found out, what is on paper is not always correct. I believe a CSM should be prepared to take on any job within the company, plus any extra ones, which may come up from time to time.
The first phase of Commando was an approach march to our position in reserve, a role none of the Company cared for. We arrived and settled in for the night. It was not long before shellfire was passing overhead. All ammunition checks, rations, batteries for radios were completed, and entrenching tools (foolishly discarded) which we picked up along the way were returned to their owners, much to their surprise. It seemed no time before we were called to an "O" Group and were told we were to move out at first light to attack up the rear slopes of 355. Lady Luck was with us, as I look back now. We moved very fast through the fog and across the valley. My mind was checking over all the things that I was responsible for, such as ammo, water and rations, as we had only first line with us. It was not long, before the sound of rifle and mortar fire could be heard.
7 Platoon was leading and as we struggled up the side of the mountain we came onto a group of 7 Platoon who had been wounded by mortar fire. The stretcher-bearers did what they could for them and I then put them into an area where they would have some cover from the incoming mortar fire. I continued on up and joined Coy HQ where things were happening fast and furious. There were some wounded. A call came through from 7 Platoon for their rocket launcher and ammo, which were taken out to their position.
As soon as there was a lull in the fighting, the stretcher-bearers collected the wounded and moved them down with the others. Ammo, rations, water and entrenching tools were now a big problem as I could not see further supplies reaching us that night. We withdrew all ammo, rations and water from the wounded, with the exception of two water bottles, and that gave us enough to see us through the night. Radio batteries in particular were a problem, but between us all we were able to find enough to keep communications open for the remainder of the 355 operation. The wounded and prisoners were sent back to Battalion. Digging was hard because it was just solid rock wherever you went. We moved back across the valley to our old position the next day and again became the Battalion reserve. We did not mind it this time as we were all starting to feel a little weary.
On 5 October C Company leapfrogged through B and D Companies on the main thrust line and covered by artillery and tank fire charged up the dusty, steep and narrow slopes of the pinnacled shaped Point 317, in some places climbing on all fours. In the late afternoon we secured it, in the face of spasmodic fire, before the enemy could reinforce the vital point.
Night was closing in and the Company settled itself in, by digging and making use of "Charlie's" holes. Re-supply had not reached us at this stage, and not knowing what may happen during the night, I contacted A Company and was able to get enough reserve ammo for the night. Ammo and water became a big problem for the MMGs, but early the next morning the A/Tk Platoon arrived with ammo, rations, water and batteries.
B Company passed through us that day for an assault down the spur line towards 217 and ran into a lot of trouble, which resulted in the evacuation of, wounded. This put a big pressure on our stretcher-bearers and the parties sent up from A Company. Once again water and ammo were taken from the wounded on their way through.
We were then set for the next round, which was not very long in coming. Strangely, in all this time I had little chance to talk to Major Gerke, as he had his problems and I had mine. As for what a CSM does, all I can say is that he is a man for all tasks. And he has to do them quickly without waiting to be asked.
I have the greatest respect for my Company and Platoon commanders. In my estimation Major Jack Gerke has no equal. Lieutenants' Pears and Pembroke did all that was expected of them and more. Lieutenant McWilliam, who came to us half way through Commando and sadly paid the supreme sacrifice, was an outstanding soldier and leader of men. I have the same high regard for our small group of specialists at Company HQ- our signalers, runners and stretcher-bearers. There are many soldiers in C Company who now owe their lives to Massey and Harkness, our stretcher-bearers. Harkness later died in my arms as we came down from 227 after a night raid.
I felt that C Company had won its place in the Battalion History as being a well-trained, well-led, hard-hitting fighting machine capable of holding its position against all odds.
If I were asked a direct question about Commando I would certainly reply; "one of the best planned operations, commanded by experts, fought with outstanding bravery by all who took part, in some of the worst country in the world, with victory at the end."
It was a great honour to serve with C Company as CSM - to serve with such young regular soldiers in the largest military operation mounted since WW2. Everyone did what he had to do in accordance the Regimental motto:
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