Victorian Association of Jewish Ex & Servicemen & Women Australia Incorporated

Founding Member General Sir John Monash GCMG KCB VD

MAJ John Boothroyd RFD ED (Ret’d) Full Address

John BoothroydRemembrance Day Service 2011

Address by Maj John Boothroyd Rfd Ed (Ret’d)
President, RAEME Association, Victoria

Thank you for the privilege of being your speaker on this Day of Remembrance, which marks the 93rd Anniversary of the Armistice of the First World War and today is now known as Remembrance Day.

On Monday the 11th of November l918 at 11.00 am or 1100 hrs for those who utilise military time, the guns on the Western Front fell silent for the first time in more than four years of continuous warfare. The actual document was signed at 5.00 am and the hostilities ceased 6 hours later at 11.00 am. Thus came into being the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and the silent tribute.

The term ‘Armistice’ means the cessation of hostilities as a prelude to peace negotiations. These took place over several months and resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. This had the effect of cancelling the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed in 1917 on the eastern front, and the Treaty of Bucharest with Rumania.

The formal treaty was signed in a railway carriage in the forest of Compiègne some 65 miles North East of Paris, France. In 1940 Hitler exacted revenge on the French by forcing them to sign an armistice - on German terms - in the same railway carriage.

This historic carriage remained in place in a specially constructed building, the Clairiere de L’armistice until June 1940 when Hitler and other German officials demanded and received the surrender armistice from France.

During the occupation of France the building was destroyed and the carriage taken to and displayed in Berlin. During the Allied advance in 1945 the carriage was moved by the Germans for safe keeping to the town of Ohrdruf, but as the armoured column entered the town the SS set it ablaze. After the Second World War the Compiègne site was restored but it took until 1950 to place an identical Compagnie des Wagons-Lits carriage No 2439 built in 1913 in the same batch as the original was renumbered 24l9 D and still exists today.

As the armistice came into effect, so ended the First World War, one of the most brutal and horrific episodes in the history of mankind. The outstanding exploits and sacrifices made by the service men and women that fought in that war, gave Australia a sense of national identity and national pride that has endured to this day.

On each anniversary of the armistice commencing in1919, gatherings such as the one we are attending today have taken place all over Australia. Australia’s contribution to the final victory in the First World War was quite remarkable for a country with a population of only five million and so soon after Federation in 1901. The proportion of personnel provided and the casualties sustained more than equalled those of the United Kingdom, and the casualties sustained in this conflict remain the highest of all wars Australia has participated in since. Very few Australian families were spared the sorrow of losing a relative or friend and many families had no male heirs to continue the family name.

The slaughter of the First World War so profoundly affected the generation of that time that it was commonly labelled the war to end all wars and the 11thof November was known simply as Armistice Day as any future wars were considered unthinkable.

The casualties of some of the nations involved are staggering, and to give some idea I will detail a few:

Country    Mobilised    Killed    Wounded    Total    %
Australia    330,000    59,000    152,000    211,000    64%
Great Britain    5,397,000    703,000    1,663,000    2,367,000    44%
France    7,500,000    1,385,000    4,266,000    5,651,000    75%
Russia    12,000,000    1,700,000    4,950,000    6,650,000    55%
USA    4,272,500    117,000    204,000    321,000    8%
Germany    11,000,000    1,718,000    4,234,000    5,952,000    54%

But please remember there were many more nations involved.

History shows us that the world soon forgot the lessons learnt during that terrible conflict, and consequently

Australia has been involved in a succession of wars and peace keeping operations culminating in The current deployment of defence force men and women in Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. Although the casualties are fewer the impact on the general population is much harder due to communication technology available in the modern world. Australia has been involved in a succession of wars and peace keeping operations culminating in the current deployment of defence force men and women in Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. Although the casualties are fewer, the impact on the general population is much harder due to communication technology available in the modern world.

In recent times, Armistice Day was changed to Remembrance Day and now encompasses all wars and warlike operations that Australia has been involved in.

On this day, we take time out to remember the many thousands of men and women who gave their precious lives in battle, and in many other ways, so that future generations of Australians may have the opportunity to enjoy the freedom we take for granted.

On this day we also remember those who were wounded in war or during captivity, particularly those who had their lives shattered by mutilation, or incapacitating injuries both physical and mental.

On this day we reflect on the futility and horror of war. We also pause to consider the fate that would have befallen our great country had these magnificent Australians, not willingly sacrificed their lives for the benefit of their countrymen.

On this day we remember the families, the brothers and sisters, the wives and husbands and the young children left by the death of the fallen, and the suffering they endure.

These Australians gave their precious lives and asked for nothing in return, except: TO BE REMEMBERED. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to continue to honour the memory of those Australians who have fallen in the service of their country.

It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the sacrifices of these special Australians are not diminished or sullied or consigned to history to become mere statistics. Let us ensure that they are remembered with genuine pride and gratitude and ensure that they did not die in vain.

MAJ John Boothroyd RFD ED (Ret’d) is the President of the RAEME Association Victoria Incorporated.

John was born in Lancashire England on December 25th1937 and survived the Second World War despite being bombed out of three houses. He was raised by his Grandmother as his father went away as a soldier in the territorial army on the day after war was declared. He returned in 1945, having served in the 8thArmy as an infantry man and Bren gun carrier driver in France, North Africa, Italy and Austria.

Having sat for the 11 plus examination, John was allocated to the Didsbury Selective School For Boys and received a mixed academic and technical education prior to migrating to Australia, and settling in Noble Park. He education continued at Dandenong High School until December 1952. Having passed the entrance examination to the Commonwealth Government, John commenced an apprenticeship as a Mechanical Technician with the PMGs Dept at the Postal Workshops in South Melbourne. This was completed in 1958 having also completed National Service in 1956.

At this time it was also a requirement to serve for five years in the CMF and he was posted to a Medium Artillery Regt as a gun fitter and became responsible for the maintenance of the 5.5 inch guns located throughout Gippsland. These guns were replaced with25 pounder guns and eventually with 105 mm howitzers and 105 mm field guns. Having risen through the ranks from craftsman to Warrant Officer Class 2, the Colonel of RAEME decided that John should become an Officer, so after selection testing, he was promoted to commissioned rank and posted to the RAEME HQs.

A short time later he returned to the Light Aid Detachment of the Artillery Regiment as the Officer Commanding and after three years was posted to command a Transport Company Workshop as a Captain. Due to re-organisation of the army, John occupied several training and administrative positions until being posted as the Officer Commanding 3 Communications Zone Recovery Company located in Warragul and Korrumburra. Here he was responsible for the provision of recovery support to 3rd Division in Victoria and 7th Division in NSW; he occupied this position for four years and was then promoted to Major. He secured the posting as the Training Major at the Officer Cadet Trg Unit at Puckapunyal - a position he held from 1980 until 1984 and then became S02 Logistics on HQ 3rd Division Melbourne. During this time he was involved in the Fiery Cauldron Exercise and carried out the duties of the SO1 Logistics, as the regular officer became unable to continue due to injury.

After two years he was posted to HQ 6 Gp Royal Aust Engineers as the S02 EME and provided repair and recovery support to the engineer units under command. In addition he also became the Camp Commandant for the Regimental and Technical Training Camps. His final task prior to retirement was to conduct a chainsaw, tree felling and bush mill saw course for a combined ARA and A Res group in the Big River area of Victoria, where the timber sourced and milled was used to construct bridges and elevated tracks over marsh land on the Great Divide Walking Track.

After 37 years, John retired having been awarded the Reserve Force Decoration with two bars and the Efficiency Decoration in conjunction with the National Medal with Bar, the Australian Defence Medal, and the Anniversary of National Service Medal.

After completing his apprenticeship he completed further studies to become a toolmaker and metallurgist and eventually became the apprentice master at the PMG workshops Melbourne. In 1965 he moved to the Army Apprentices School at Balcombe as a civilian instructor in a Warrant Officer Class One position in the metal trades wing. In 1969 he transferred to the Education Department as a technical trade teacher and taught at Doveton, Dandenong, The Pines and Frankston technical schools. Having completed teacher training at Hawthorn Teachers College, he became a Senior Teacher at Dandenong Technical College which eventually became a TAFE college. After serving some time as the State wide co-ordinator for the Trade of Fitting and Machining he was tasked with the coordination of the building of stage two of the TAFE college at Dandenong and the purchase of the machinery for the technical trades. Whilst involved in this task he also studied at Melbourne University for a Graduate Diploma in Educational Administration which eventually led to a Bachelor of Technical Education and a Diploma of Technical Teaching.

After promotion to Head of Campus being responsible for the day to day administration of the college and the conduct of examinations with the granting of certificates, the government of the day decided that the job was not required and so was “Jeffed”. However, after some months, John was asked to come back and work in engineering as the technical storeman until retiring in 2004, aged 67.

John has been happily married for 49 years to Robina and they have two children, one of whom still lives at home, along with his mother-in-law aged 92 who speaks with a broad Scottish accent.

Peter Fink Full Address

Peter FinkRemembrance Luncheon 2010

Address by Peter Fink

During my address I will go backwards and forwards in time and hopefully inform and entertain you a little and if there is any snoring, please keep it down to a quiet snore.

I grew up in Kew with a high percentage of the Fink Family, while others lived all over Australia. My father and his family were fortunate to be here before the Germans took over Poland.

Along with my brother Ron, I attended Yeshivah College and was one of their worst students. I went to Kew High School where I felt most comfortable and rather than move to the Gelt Belt, went to Preston where I worked as a builder’s labourer. Hairdressing was to become my next venture in order to support my mother and myself, as at that time, my father had died at the untimely age of 58. My brother, who was a hairdresser, had come back from overseas after working with a young fellow called Vidal Sassoon, and told me to get into hairdressing, saying that it’s a good career. After a number of years, I opened shops in David Jones and George’s.

Eventually I did what I thought I would never do and joined the Army. After that, made the decision to join the Federal Police Force, having seeing an ad that the Federal Police were looking for recruits. An appointment was made and after a few interviews, I was accepted. I told my wife that the job would last 12 months, but it lasted 19 years!

At the Australian Federal Police Academy I was introduced to some rigorous exercises, like a 5km run in snowy Canberra weather. On the day we graduated the temperature was 48C. Duties were varied including guarding politicians and embassy people. I was a small Jewish non-six-footer, and was put into the Brawl Squad. My duty was to drive around Canberra to various locations where people had been drinking, and inviting them to leave and spend a night in the cells. You get to meet everybody in Canberra. In fact, everybody there is very important. You will be asked, “Do you know who I am?” and you could be sure that they were about to tell you.

Following that, I was in Accident Investigation which was pretty much, I think, the worst area where I worked. This involved attending serious accidents where you investigated and then had to go to someone’s door and give them the tragic news that a family member has passed away and that they needed to come to identify the body. Following that, we had to attend the morgue and go through the autopsy as well as go to the Coroner’s Court. That’s an area I was very glad to leave. I was sent back to Melbourne after much begging and cajoling, basically saying that I was Jewish and had family back there.

The AFP sent me back to Melbourne to an area which was the virtual CIB (Criminal Investigation Branch)in Jolimont next to the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground). How much better does it get? You could leave at lunchtime and watch the cricket which was fabulous. Fortunately, I didn’t mention football. The Federal Police HQ was later moved to Latrobe Street in the Melbourne CBD putting an end to the lunchtime pastime.

The Federal Police has a Charter that starts where the other police forces leave off. Whereas State Police deal with summary offences like traffic and other misdemeanours, the Federal Police deal with more serious crimes like counterfeiting, people smuggling, serious tax evasion and, of course drugs, terrorism, family law and so on. One of the interesting jobs that I was given was working with the International Crime Authority. They wanted to bring back the interviewing and charging of potential criminals with war crimes conducted against people from Europe. The legalities discussed in Parliament were quite thorough and intense that gave permission to go ahead; hence that meant meeting a lot of people from all over Australia and interviewing them about their experiences during the war and pressing charges against offenders here in Australia. Eventually, a Jewish QC (Queen’s Counsel) brought up a lot of facts but it was shelved, saying that their memory wasn’t good enough. Not long after, Mr Steven Spielberg started to make the Shoah interviews which were also deemed unsuitable for “this sort of thing.” I am still mystified to this day why it was considered “unsuitable.” I met the organiser about five years later. She asked me why I didn’t apply and my reply was that I did apply. Her response was to say that she was sorry and that it would go through next time. The whole application was shelved after they came to a so-called “wonderful” conclusion.

I worked in the CIB for about four years straight. One thing that began during this time was that I was receiving a lot of calls on a private line, from members of the community. As you are aware, those who join the Service want to save the world as they want to help others. When people would ring I would say to them that if it involved money, I was not interested, see a lawyer. But if it involved family, I was always available. So over a period of 18 years I received around 1,500 calls from members of the community. One of the classic cases was from a couple who said their son was on drugs and that he may have been using cocaine. I went to the house and spoke to the child and then spoke to the parents. I said to the boy to go outside and get a couple of aspirins and two glasses of water and bring them back to me. When the boy left the room I turned to the parents and asked them where they hid the cocaine. They asked what I meant and I explained that their son had seen it and saw them using it and that now he was following their habit. After some discussion it was ascertained that they were using drugs. Half the problems that we discovered in the community were caused where a lot of people had instigated things themselves. When the boy came back with the aspirins and water I told him to give it to his parents, that they needed them.

 Following that I went into the Drug Squad and it proved to be a very interesting time. We actually had new legislation granting new powers, new drugs, and so on. What I am imparting to you is not classified and it was all in the Press so you are not getting any new revelations. What actually happened was that we had success with 32 operations, one after the other, which I think in two years netted $2.3 billion worth of drugs on the market. Victoria Police was successful with just $17 million. Victoria Police had a record year with $17.3 million worth of confiscated drugs and we seized $390 million worth at that same time. And this with a total of 80 Federal Police Officers around Australia to carry out this task. Tri-National operations with USA, Bolivia’s National Police Force and us produced good results and we confiscated 20kgs of the stuff which was a record catch at that time. The reports of the warrants that were executed said that the Miami Police seized 2 tons. Bolivia’s National Police found a plantation which exceeded anything that had been seen. This world-wide community aspect started to become terrific. We began working with foreign agencies such as Scotland Yard, Interpol, DEA (USA’s Drug Enforcement Agency), NCA and the Secret Service, etc. These cross-border revelations worked very well. Unfortunately, it also worked in sieges in the Jewish Community where I had little input.

We had our conflicts with the Victorian Police when we started with our last investigation. A Superintendent from Victoria Police Drug Squad wanted to talk to me about working together and a strong working relationship developed after that. In certain units of the armed forces, where some are better than others, all work together to achieve a good result and that’s exactly what happened in law enforcement. I ended up being seconded to the BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation) for a number of months with great success and was then transferred to the Northern Territory Police for a year which produced great results as well.

Touching on the TV series Underbelly, I worked with the Purana Taskforce. The “Carlton Crew” was an experience in itself. I told my kids that I was one of the original cast.

It was very difficult being a Jew in the Federal Police, not that the Jewish aspect by senior management was a problem. Working with a lot of neo-Nazis in the Force was something of an issue. I took a lot of pride in my Jewish heritage and never missed davening every morning and certainly davened in some unusual places. One of the most memorable was at the Sunshine Football Club first thing in the morning surrounded by broken beer bottles and syringes next to an all-night pokies venue. They asked what I was doing so I answered that praying had to be done at some stage. I told them that a lightning bolt may come from the sky and then we would all be in trouble. So I find great pride in my heritage. People came up to me saying that Hitler should have finished the job or things such as, “fire up the ovens”, and “these Jews are all the same”. Another comment once said to me was that I wasn’t like all other Jews. When I asked how many Jews he had met, the reply was that I was the first. I found other Members extremely polite, inquisitive and very knowledgeable about the Jewish faith, but the interesting fact was that I worked with seven Jewish Members and not one would admit to his religion.

Working with Family Law is where I had the most shotguns pointed at me. Apparently, nobody likes to lose their children to the courts. After that I went to Intelligence for a few years, but the second most interesting area was in surveillance. This involved encompassing undercover roles such as in bikie gangs. We also worked in the Moslem community after 9/11 which involved making friends - because you keep your enemies close. That way we got a lot of information by working with them to find out who were the problem guys.

The biggest case I worked on was Carlos Cabal, the Mexican banker who nearly brought down the Mexican economy. Mexican currency dropped 17% in value overnight. He absconded from Mexico, ran all over the world and everywhere he went was nearly arrested, being missed by a mere 10 minutes! Moving to Australia, my crew managed to find him one morning at Brighton Beach having a walk. We watched his house for three weeks and when we arrested him, he had a Mexican newspaper on the table with an AGE headline. We had great success with him.

The most interesting area I worked in was CPD, Close Protection Division. You will have seen on TV the men with earpieces guarding Prime Ministers and Presidents. That’s exactly what we did. We gave protection to foreign dignitaries, members of Parliament, witness protection and so on. So there were a fair amount of people that we dealt with over the years, including the Royal Family, US Presidents like George Bush Snr and George Bush Jr, a number of Israeli delegates from the Knesset (Parliament) including PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. In the CPD we were trained for demonstrations. You will remember the World Trade Conference in 2000 before the Sydney Olympics when they shut down Crown Tower. There were a few thousand protesters there. I have fond memories of sleeping on a Baccarat table in an empty casino and going back to work three hours later. It was quite an interesting time to be away from home for five days, looking after dignitaries and facing people who wanted to bash you.

Along the way there has been a lot of trouble and I ended up working in East Timor when the fledgling country was handed over by the Indonesians. The AFP was actually the first one in. In the Solomon Islands, we had the SAS sitting on HMAS TOBRUK at Guadalcanal, but the Government’s wish was that 10 AFP Officers went in first. We were to precede the SAS. The Government figured that talk was better than a show of arms which worked quite well. Fiji was another country where we had duties during the time when George Spey decided he didn’t want to go to jail. Colonel Sitivani Rabuka also instigated a coup so we went there to protect Australians, the High Commission and so on. After that I was sent for a short stint to Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan where we have soldiers and was also at Bora Bora. We have also done work with the Chinese and things seem to be getting better and better.

We were sent to Bali after the bombing. At the time I was actually with my younger daughter in the Great Dividing Range. The local store owner came and said to me that I’d better ring Melbourne because bombs had gone off. I travelled to Darwin in a Hercules transport aircraft then changed onto another Hercules for the flight to Bali. The next five days were spent at the bomb site and we ferried people backwards and forwards to Darwin Hospital, seeing the most horrific injuries you can imagine. At the Darwin Hospital a local woman said to me that I’d better come down to Casualty immediately. I noticed five rather big gentlemen standing with arms folded and I asked if I could help them. They replied that they were there to help and I asked who they were. The reply was that they were brothers and that nobody was going to stand in their way. I had just the job for them saying that we had trouble with the Press - they are like seagulls and I needed them moved away from here. “Leave it to us,” was the reply. This group stood there for four days and they did their job well.

l also managed to nearly get shot by the TNI (Indonesian Military police). At the bomb site they would march up and down for the benefit of the Press so I told them to get out of the crime scene and they didn’t want to. The TNI drew their weapons on me and I called to the Channel 9 film crew saying that they had better film this as it would make a good story. We ended up working at the site for five days, setting up our own HQ at Police headquarters; our investigation lasted for nine months. We took 9,000 statements and looked at 3,000 rolls of film as well as 1,000 videos so were able to ascertain who was involved in the bombing. As you will remember from the reports, the Indonesians allegedly executed the perpetrators and had built a bridge between the law enforcement agencies and intelligence.

Back in Canberra I worked on a Booze Bus at one stage. The bus had just been packed up and all cars were sent away. We sat and reminded ourselves about the day’s activities. A car came along Northbourne Avenue, in and out of traffic, tooting his horn and giving rude signs to other drivers. We decided we had to pick him up but we didn’t have to. He went 100 metres, stopped and reversed. He pulled up outside the Booze Bus, opened his door and staggered over to the Sergeant and said, “I will have half-a-dozen Jim Beans, please.”

Another story that may or may not be true is about a gentleman coming home from a party late one night who decides to pull over at the Booze Bus. He is taken inside and breathalysed. There is a call on the radio and everyone disappears. He waits. Nothing happens. He gets into his car and goes home and off he goes to sleep. There is a knock on his door. Two police officers ask him, “Did you go to a party tonight?”
“How did you get home?”
“I drove.”
“Whose car?”
“Mine.” “Where is it?”
“In the garage.”
“Do you mind opening the garage?”
In the garage was a brand new police car!

When I joined the Army I made a lot of friends, as well as a lot in the Victoria Police and the SES (State Emergency Services). I got involved with Petroleum and we travelled around refuelling military vehicles on exercises in Papua New Guinea and Malaysia. We also refuelled the Sea King and Blackhawk helicopters. We travelled all around Australia on military exercises and saw most of the Northern Territory, Queensland and most of Western Australia. One of the other duties we were required to do was firefighting, putting out chemical fires and we were regarded highly by the Military Brass.

At one stage when we were working with the Americans and were on the same landing strip, they wouldn’t talk to us. We didn’t know what was going on and were determined to make them talk to us. I devised a plan. One of our young soldiers brought a rechargeable electric shaver that could work for three weeks before it needed a recharge. I went to our RAEME (Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) guys asking for a power point cover, a couple of screws and a screwdriver. The next morning I put a towel over my shoulder and went to a large tree and proceeded to screw in the power point.
The Americans watched me. “Hey, Aussie, what are you doing?”
“What does it look like?” I answered.
“But, it’s a tree,” said the Yank.
“This is a big Bow-Apple tree, you plug it in and it works.” I answered. “The apples are full of water and when the sun hits it, it generates electricity, making the shaver work.”
“That’s amazing,” said the Yank.
“Will you lend the power point to us?”
I went back to my tent and the Yank called out, “It isn’t working.”
“Different voltage,” I replied.

After that, the Americans spoke to us. Some of the white Southern States guys thought they were better than their troops. But, we had a good relationship with the Americans.

I brought some memorabilia for you to see; my service medals and those of my father from World War Two, who fought on Kokoda and Burma and some books which were given to him during the war.

In conclusion, I’d like to convey to you that family is very important when you come home.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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Peter Fink was born in Melbourne, educated at Yeshiva College and Kew High School, predominately raised in Kew in the folds of the ever-growing Fink clan.

He has had a few career changes including having a trade as a builder’s labourer, a hairdresser, a member of the Australian Defence Force as a petroleum operator in 1 Petroleum Coy and was a member of the Australian Federal Police.

Peter served in the Army for five years and the Australian Federal Police for just under 19 years. In the years with the AFP, he served overseas in various locations including East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Cambodia and Afghanistan. He also served in Bali as a result of the Bali bombing.

Peter has lived in most States and Territories in Australia but has chosen Melbourne as a preferred place of residence due to religious and family needs

Along the way, Peter managed to raise a family of four children. One of his children is currently serving in the Australia Defence Force as a Lieutenant in the Army, making him the third generation of the Fink family to serve in the ADF.

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Denis Baguley Full Address

Denis BaguelyANZAC Commemoration Service
Sunday 2 May 2010

Address by Denis Baguley,
Chief Executive, Shrine of Remembrance

President of VAJEX, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, students,

I am honoured to be invited to address the association’s Anzac commemorative service today as Chief Executive of the Shrine of Remembrance.

I am pleased to acknowledge the ongoing role of the association which perpetuates and honours the memory of Jewish men and women in the armed services of Australia in the World Wars and in all other conflicts in which Australia has been engaged. I am pleased also to acknowledge that the Australian Jews and the association have a long association with the Shrine of Remembrance. From the Boer war and the subsequent two world wars, as well as in other conflicts and peacekeeping activities, Australian Jews have served the nations cause with a great spirit of loyalty and genuine patriotism.

And I should add that there are Jewish men and women currently serving in the Australian Defence Force on deployment and at home and some on peacekeeping duties with the UN.

Of course that great citizen soldier, lawyer and engineer, General Sir John Monash, was instrumental in convincing the government of the day to build our Shrine of Remembrance. He said there was a no more fitting memorial than the Shrine for the hundreds of thousands of families affected by the horror of the Great War. He also served on the committee that first proposed such a monument, chose the design and the architects, and even decided where and how it was to be built. He had a massive personal and professional investment in the completion of the shrine.

In that regard, I am pleased that we have developed an ongoing strategic relationship with Monash University that now sees an annual Monash exhibition displayed in the visitor centre that recognises his contribution to the Shrine but importantly informs the thousands of visitors to the shrine of Monash’s valuable contribution our community.

I should also add that this association has loaned us the Paul Montford bust of Monash for use in our Monash exhibition which we are most grateful.

Can I also reflect on Anzac Day - our national day of commemoration? It is the day Australians remember the original landing on Gallipoli in 1915, 95 years ago last Sunday. The spirit of Anzac, with its human qualities of courage, mateship and sacrifice, continues to have meaning and relevance for our sense of national identity. At this time, the service of our veterans is acknowledged in ceremonies held in towns and cities across the nation, and of course overseas from Gallipoli to Villers Bretonneux, hellfire pass and Kokoda. The ever-growing attendances in all places testify to Anzac Day’s significance for all Australians.

It is the day we remember that 420,000 young Australians volunteered to fight in World War One; that 330,000 or so of those actually did so, and of those, 60,000 or so were killed, and another 160,000 wounded (and the 60,000 which subsequently died within 10 years of their return as a result of their service).

It is also the day we also should remember the valiant efforts of the 2ndAIF and the CMF, in the Middle East and in Papua New Guinea and other areas of the South Pacific, combined with the sufferings of Australian POWs, is further confirmation of the relevance of war in Australian history, and the standing and importance of those who fought it.

We can only imagine the extent of the human sacrifice and the loved ones sorrow that the deaths of so many Australians occurred somewhere else in the world. It is hard to imagine that 100,000 Australians are buried overseas, many in unmarked graves, many of which have never been visited by their loved ones. We should remember that no relatives were allowed to bring the bodies home or to make graves of their own on or near battlefields. All identifiable bodies were buried in cemeteries containing a stone of remembrance and a cross of sacrifice under uniform headstones placed in straight rows as if still on parade with strictly controlled inscriptions.

No one can express all that this day means to us Australians and of course the New Zealanders, the other half of the Anzac tradition. It is said Australia’s great historian Manning Clark, ‘about something too deep for words’.

From the first Anzac Day in 1916, the people of this nation understood what sort of memory was required. They got it right from the beginning. They knew out of Gallipoli there was no flag waving glory; rather our remembrance would be of the rigors of war and the courage of ordinary citizens in extraordinary circumstances. It is the story of a peaceful democracy, a reluctant nation paradoxically drawn back to the battlefield time and time again.

In 2010, there is another aspect to our remembrance. Today’s Australia is a nation of many colours and languages. But we do not need to look too far to find a connection.

After all, the people of the empire today’s India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Burma and Afghanistan, to name a few of the crimson coloured countries of the old world map were allies in the two World Wars as was China.

And our diversity and openness gains even richer meaning when we contemplate that our once enemies Japan, Germany, Turkey and Italy are today some of our strongest partners and friends.

Indeed it is a proud part of our national character that we accept only a very light burden of patriotism. The larrikins who went to war would not have wanted it any other way.

But what must never change is our basic national duty of remembrance: an agreed part of the social compact in a nation that asks very little of its citizens.

What is certain is that hundreds of thousands of Australian families mourn a loss in their own way today. Certainly there are Australian children who will cry tonight for a dad lost in Afghanistan. The Australian story embraces them all.

And again last Sunday, the dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne 40,000 Victorians remembered.

Whilst the Shrine will always honour the fallen and the service and sacrifice of Australian servicemen and women, and is our most significant cultural and heritage asset, the challenge is that it must be relevant to future generations; that is accessible to the veteran community, the elderly and disabled, be engaging and dynamic for the younger generation and a destination for the international and interstate visitor.

I was first asked by the chairman in 2000 to assist the new board of trustees who were confronting a series of challenges to bring the Shrine of Remembrance into the 21st Century.

We devised a staged, long-term master strategy for the shrine and the 13 hectare Shrine reserve. The strategy outlined future development of the Shrine so its full potential as an educational facility could be realised and also recognising its significance as a tourist attraction in the city, while its integrity as a place of remembrance and its heritage significance could still be maintained.

The path of that strategy has been greatly assisted by the enormous contribution by Wing Cdr Peter Isaacson, AM, DFC, AFC, DFM, who has not only provided 54 years of service to the Shrine from 1956 as a Trustee, Chairman of Trustees and Life Governor but also it was Peter’s Chairmanship, vision and energy that led to the major restoration works in the 1990’s and the early concept work on the galleries of remembrance that set the foundations for the current trustees to be able to effectively proceed with the visitor centre development in 2003.

The visitor centre; originally intended simply to improve access for those who could not manage the imposing set of stairs leading to the Sanctuary of the Shrine, the centre has succeeded in making the Shrine more accessible to many more.

We thought optimistically, it might lead, within a few years, to a doubling of our visitation rate. In fact we achieved that goal within 12 months of opening. Visitation has grown from 275,000 in 2002 to approximately 600,000 in 2009.

Interestingly, the visitor profile is typically of Australian origin, an even spread of males and females and strongly represented in the 20 to 34 year old age bracket. Visitor research also tells us we are attracting a good spread of interstate and international visitors - in fact, 30% of our visitors are from overseas. Our research also shows extremely high satisfaction rates amongst visitors.

The appointment of a management team which commenced in 2003, and the expansion of our volunteer force from 25 to 100 (with a waiting list) has allowed for new initiatives which contribute to a more informative, responsive and educational visitor experience. Another milestone was reached in November 2004 with the launch of our education program. We believe the shrine holds enormous untapped potential to contribute to future social cohesion, sense of purpose and shared goals within our community.

Our aim is bold; we would like to see that every Victorian schoolchild visits the shrine at least once during their primary years, and once during their secondary years.

The education program is directly linked to the Victorian school curriculum fostering ‘values education’ and keeping the Anzac spirit alive. It is also linked to the national framework for values education. Since its implementation, school visits have increased by 400%. In 2009 over 40,000 students visited us. We have an education team supported by 15 volunteers and Metlink provide us with $40,000 per annum to support disadvantaged schools to visit the shrine or our travelling exhibition in regional centres. Because our education centre has now reached capacity we have now commenced an outreach program to country Victoria. Only two weeks ago, we delivered the program to 500 students from Stawell and Ararat supported by local veterans.

The Trustees are committed to education and ensuring the traditions and values established by our veterans are passed onto future generations and I am pleased that the government also recognise this and the Shrine of Remembrance act is currently being amended to incorporate education as a core function alongside commemoration.

Can I say that the Shrine education program is not about conveying messages of war and horror, but rather providing students with a moving experience that has the potential to shape their values and attitudes, and help them become more informed of past events and Australian history that helped to shape this nation and culture and assist them to be more socially aware citizens in the future.

Our Australian servicemen and women became known around the world for their endurance, loyalty, mateship, leadership, courage and humour in the face of adversity. It is these qualities along with the steadfastness of those on the home front, that helped form our national identity and spirit, and it is these qualities that we want to pass onto the youth of tomorrow.

The program also encourages return visits and extension activities students can do in their own communities with veterans. We are also conscious that not all in the Victorian community are able to visit the Shrine of Remembrance so in November 2006 we launched the history of the shrine travelling exhibition in Hamilton. Whilst it was intended to travel for three years we have had to add two years to the program because of community demand. This response only underlines to us that the Shrine is the memorial for all Victorians: for the old and the young; for males and females; for Australian born and for the multi-cultural communities.

We have also developed a detailed proposal for the next stage of development. Our vision is to utilise the remaining Undercroft space of the Shrine for galleries of remembrance that further explain Victorian service in war, peacekeeping, and on the home front.

Our aspirations now lie in the hands and the in-trays of those responsible for the state and the nation’s fiscal resources.

It is our hope we can complete the Galleries of Remembrance for the centenary of Anzac in 2015. Whilst these discussions with government have been ongoing for some years we continue to plan improvements for the benefit of veterans and the community - and meet some major new challenges.

The casting of a replica of the cobber’s statue situated in the Shrine reserve (funded by Tattersall’s George Adams foundation and the State of Victoria) is one of those improvements.

The battle of Fromelles was the worst 24 hours in Australian history resulting in 5533 Australian casualties including 2000 dead on 19 July 1916. Such a significant moment in history and one that has been recognised in the Shrine reserve with only the second casting in the world of ‘cobbers’ representing a digger carrying a wounded mate.

The statue is about mateship, compassion, about courage and about cobbers. It is an Australian and Victorian story and not everyone has the opportunity to travel to Fromelles to reflect on the tragedy and humanity of war.

It is important that Cobbers came to Melbourne and the Shrine of Remembrance and it will stand for all the Anzac virtues including mateship, compassion and courage as well as the lesson of Fromelles.

I can add that our temporary exhibition program and public lecture program have been enormously successful and later this month we will open an indigenous Australians at war exhibition - the first exhibition in Australia commemorating Indigenous Australian service and sacrifice.

In August the Australian war memorial travelling exhibition - the company of brave men Gallipoli VC’s - will open at the Shrine. The Victoria crosses awarded at Lone Pine to the nine Australians will be on display. Five of those recipients were Victorians: Albert Jacka, Frederick Tubb, Alexander Burton, William Dunstan and William Symons.

For your information, Lance Corporal Leonard Keysor was one of those awarded Victoria Cross at Lone Pine and one of the estimated 300 Australian Jews who fought on Gallipoli. Keysor won his Victoria Cross during the battle of Lone Pine in August 1915. By that time he had become a master bomb thrower; during the days and nights of the battle, he proved his skill time and again. As Turkish bombs landed in his trench, Keysor would smother the explosions with sandbags or clothing. If he had time, he would throw the bombs back - on several occasions he even caught them in mid-flight before lobbing them back into the Turkish trenches. He was twice wounded but refused medical aid, maintaining his efforts for 50 hours. His actions saved the trench and removed the enemy from the position.

From Gallipoli, Keysor went on to serve in France, where he was twice promoted, and twice wounded in 1918. He had always considered himself a Londoner and he returned to Britain to live after the war. He died there in October 1951.

Finally, when we opened the visitor centre in 2003, the first words we wanted our visitors to see and read were ‘Lest We Forget'‘. On the opposite wall, so placed that it is the last message we want our visitors to take away with them are the words of Sir William Deane spoken on Anzac day 1999. They aptly sum up the meaning of Anzac and hopefully are a lasting memory of their experience at the Shrine.

“Anzac is not merely about loss. It is about courage, and endurance, and duty, and love of country, and mateship, and good humour and the survival of a sense of self-worth in the face of dreadful odds.”

I appreciate the opportunity to speak at your Anzac commemoration service today and thank you for your association’s ongoing support of the Shrine of Remembrance.

gp capt Norman Geschke obe jp raaf (Retd) Full Address

Norman GesckeRemembrance Day Service
November 2009

Address by gp Capt Norman Geschke obe jp raaf (Retd)

It is an honour for me to be asked to address your 2009 Remembrance Day Service.

I have visited a lot of War Cemeteries and Cenotaphs in Gallipoli, France, England, the Memorial at Runnymede and in the last few weeks, the Bitabaka War Cemetery at Rabaul. As always, I left very emotionally distressed. I cannot help but be upset, particularly when I read the young ages at which many of these servicemen lost their lives.

At Bitabatak, there are about 1,000 graves, a surprising number marked by an unnamed headstone. Many of those buried were non-combatant, logistic and administrative personnel who were executed rather than being treated as PoW’s. At Runnymede, Bitabaka and most other War Cemeteries, there are thousands of names of servicemen missing in action with no known grave. They had no funeral service, and for their families there was left just a depthless void without an appropriate closure.

In the last few weeks in preparing for today, I have just finished reading a number of what I consider to be relevant books. Professor Richard Evan’s book The Reich in Power and The Reich in War. Also, Norman Dixon’s book on The Psychology of Military Incompetence. In the last few days, there have been some articles in the press, one of which was about Mrs Annie Whitelaw who lost five of her seven sons in WWI. The event where four brothers serving together on a naval ship were all killed in the one action. These books and reports, together with numerous war histories and my submissions on the effects of Agent Orange and the totally unnecessary loss of life of Australian Servicemen, caused by the British Atomic trials in Australia, have created the cauldron from which my address has emanated.

Professor Evan’s books are two of the most depressing I have read. They appropriately deal with the legalised thuggery, bestiality and senseless genocide of millions of people who were the victims of an out of control malignant dictatorship. Men, women and children killed simply because they got in the way; they were shot, bludgeoned, gassed and burnt to death by people claiming to be a cultured, civilised and intellectual society.

If ever there was a case for going to war, then WWII against Nazi Germany must be the epitome of logical justification.

Had Nazi Germany won this war, a darkness would have descended on mankind, or what was left of it; it would have been a darkness reaching depths never seen before; a darkness when all persons would have been subject to the diabolical whims of relentless extremists and deranged unconscionable thugs.

The world owes a great debt to all those servicemen and others who thwarted and destroyed the Scourge of the Swastika.

But today we are remembering not only the war against Nazi Germany and Japan, but all the other actions in which our servicemen have taken part, from the Boer War to our current actions in Afghanistan.

Regretfully, overcoming aggression comes at a great cost.

It is not just the life of a person that is lost, it is not just an event which can be satisfied by a military funeral and an annual commemoration service. For the ex-serviceman and woman, it probably means the loss of 50 years of living. It is the loss of a husband, a sweetheart and the father of children. It is a cost to our nation of the expertise and contribution that would have been made to our society had they lived their full entitled life.

I therefore see this Service today, as not being just a Memorial Service to servicemen whose lives were taken away, but also to all those who were affected by the serviceman’s or servicewoman’s death; of the many cases where there is no immediate death but years of suffering - intolerable suffering where death is often a relief.

Today as part of this Service, I want to reflect on what our Nation or more specifically, Governments have done, or rather not done, for service personnel.

On the outbreak of war, Governments and the supposedly patriotic media promote the glamour of serving a country using every emotional device possible. Prime Ministers mislead parliament, while rights are arbitrarily taken from servicemen.

There seems to be a view passed down from Governments to Governments, that when a person volunteers for the Forces, or is conscripted by the “death by ballot system” of Vietnam War, he or she puts their life at the absolute disposal of the Government to be used or wasted or placed in jeopardy at the whim of irresponsible Government or incompetent and unaccountable commanders, who have little regard for the lives of their troops. It was Hindenberg who said, “War to me was like taking the waters” while his soldiers were dying by the thousand and he was comfortably ensconced 40 miles back from the front lines. Field Marshall Haig aided and abetted by some exceedingly incompetent cohorts, was responsible for the enormous loss of life on the Western Front. His commanders and troops were given totally unattainable targets where every assessment of the task showed it was unachievable and would cost enormous casualties. He and his senior officers faithfully followed the British philosophy of expendability and that war was an approved method of postnatal birth control.

Australian senior commanders could see what was happening and the unnecessary slaughter, but were subordinate to the vast British machine and could do little.

The Australian Government, however, did not suffer the same handicap, but allowed thousands of Australians to be used as canon and machine gun fodder. In WWII, the Government was, however, more forceful where Australian interests were at stake.

Gallipoli is today, revered as the catalyst of the ANZAC legend. This, I suspect, to partly justify a disastrous campaign. Ill conceived, ill executed and at the unnecessary cost of thousands of lives. It was a situation where the enemy was virtually telegraphed of our plans and any surprise was lost.

In Vietnam, our troops battled not only the enemy, but also the indiscriminate use of the highly toxic chemicals such as Agent Orange and other toxins. With no adequate protective clothing, these agents not only affected the troops, but also the 2nd and 3rd generations of offspring yet to be born. The effects of using these agents were well known before they were used.

The unwarranted and improper use of minefields, where the mines stolen by the Vietcong and used against our troops caused, it is believed, greater casualties than our mines did against the enemy.

Our casualties were about 500 dead and 3000 injured. I understand that 1 in 10 of the deaths was caused by our mines that were stolen and used by the Vietcong. The injuries from mines were horrendous and caused the loss of legs, arms and sight.

This was a war in which we should not have been involved!

The Gulf of Tonkin episode, which prompted American entry to the war, has now been accepted as not having occurred. It was faked to mislead the American people and others into believing the United States had been attacked and so the war was justified. McNamara, the US Secretary of State, admits the US involvement in Vietnam was a mistake. A mistake which cost 60,000 American fatalities and over 100,000 injured. A mistake which led to the heavy bombing campaign which caused over 800,000 innocent civilian casualties in Laos and Cambodia.

Will history also show that the war in Iraq was also a “mistake” of a similar nature? I believe it will.

Most of us here today, will remember the disgraceful way our Vietnam veterans were treated on their return to Australia from the Vietnam War. No “thank you” for what they did, no glory for their heroic actions. It took many years before their contribution was recognised. These servicemen were doing what they were asked to do. That the war was unpopular or questionable was not the fault of our servicemen. They deserved the praise and reverence we have given to our soldiers of other wars. Iraq and Afghanistan are also unpopular, but we are carrying out our countries demands.

In peacetime, the lack of regard for servicemen’s lives has also been questionable.

On 18th February 1952, Mr Menzies made the statement on the proposal to test atomic weapons at sites in Australia. He said, “In close cooperation with the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, the test will take place at a site in Australia. It will be conducted in conditions which ensure that there will be no danger whatever from radioactivity to the health of the people or animals in the Commonwealth.”

Unfortunately, this statement was profoundly wrong.

In these atomic trials, Australian servicemen were treated as guinea pigs. Airmen in unprotected clothing flew through the atomic clouds on air sampling duties. The navy and army operated in contaminated areas. Their rewards were a premature death rate through cancer in its various forms. A litany of flawed investigations has allowed successive Governments to cover up the extent of effects to servicemen; and the suffering which has extended to wives and fatherless children.

Servicemen have enlisted to serve their country and accept that this may cause death or permanent injury in war or through accidents in peacetime. But they do not enlist to be used unnecessarily in dangerous and hazardous situations in peacetime at the whim of an uninformed, callous or indifferent Government without being given full knowledge of the risks through briefings, and being provided with protective clothing and proper reliable monitoring equipment.

There is no doubt the way Australian servicemen were used in the British Nuclear Trials caused unnecessary deaths, serious illnesses and considerable suffering to dependants.

The atomic trials in Australia were a classic example of a criminally negligent approach by British Scientists and both British and Australian Governments. They apparently did not care or believed that servicemen were expendable without accountability or responsibility on their part, as long as their political objectives were reached.

There is, of course, the “hindsight” argument. The only justifiable use of the hindsight excuse is where knowledge of what may happen is unavailable and could not reasonably be determined. However, before these trials started, there was a wealth of knowledge of the effects of radiation; the Pitchblende miners, Madame Curie, the clock and watch workers using radium to paint luminous dials, American trials and the analysis of the Hiroshima bomb radiation data and effects.

It is now 50 years since the trials, but the Government has still not dealt properly and fairly with the casualties of this activity.

Then there was the F111 deseal/reseal program where airmen were subject to contamination by working in highly toxic chemicals in the confined space of aircraft tanks.

And more recently, the unbelievable situation over the pay for SAS troops fighting in Afghanistan which took over four months to fix instead of 48 hours.

I fully appreciate that you may not have wanted a Guest Speaker to delve on these matters and I apologise if I have offended anyone. But the treatment of service personnel has concerned me for most of my service and post service life. I do not readily accept injustices or unnecessary and avoidable loss of lives.

Today when we walk away from this Remembrance Day Service, are we going to do so in the comfortable belief of “that is that” for another year, or are we going to think a little more deeply about why the lives were lost, and what more could have been done to save them. How many lives were unnecessarily lost because of lack of preparation, a disregard of whether the war was fully justified or a disregard for the sanctity of lives and what we really owe to our servicemen and their families?

Can we really accept the stupidity of military incompetence of having four brothers serving on the same warship and all being killed when it was sunk? Or that an army could be so callous to have a number of brothers killed during WWI without having the compassion to withdraw some from action. What sacrifices are needed before compassion makes its voice heard?

The scales are far from balanced. Our servicemen and women deserve better.

Many have lost their lives for us. We have a responsibility to do our part and that is to ensure as best we can, that our servicemen and their dependants are not sacrificed by complacency, incompetence, ignorance and by Governments and top brass who regard servicemen as pawns to be used indiscriminately and without accountability.

The Guardée’s comment, “that he knows no greater glory than to die for King and Country” should not be a part of the Australian ethos or a “raison d'être” to justify the unnecessary loss of life.

Australian servicemen are the best we can get. They deserve that we should also reciprocate by supporting them and giving the best we can.


After a short period in the Army, Norman Geschke entered the Air Force where he served for 30 years. During this time, he commanded a number of flying and administrative units, and held senior staff appointments in administration, organisation, training, and operations such as Senior Weapons Officer at number 82 Bomber Wing, Directorates of Operations and Training, and Air Traffic Control. He was awarded the Queen’s Commendation in 1954 and in 1967 an OBE for his services as Director of RAAF Recruiting. He was ADC tothe Governor General in 1960.

His Air Force career has had some close calls including a mid-air collision while training air gunners in a Mustang; a blocked fuel jettison pipe causing fuel to flow into the Avro Lincoln aircraft fuselage; a navigation exercise which had the hallmarks of a disaster when all airfields in range became closed through thick fog, and that is not all! He flew a Lincoln through an atomic cloud during the nuclear trials in Australia.

Within a period of one month he incurred the displeasure of the RAAF Air Board and the EXTREME displeasure of the Air Board (which was established in 1920 to control and administer the Air Force according to the policies determined by the Air Council). Despite this, he was still promoted to Group Captain but requested this promotion to be cancelled, becoming the first Air Force officer to do so.

In 1971, Norman retired with the rank of Group Captain and became the Business Manager of the Howard Florey Institute, which is the largest brain medical research institute in Australia.

In June 1974, he was appointed Victoria’s first Director of Consumer Affairs and in September 1980 he was appointed Ombudsman for Victoria.

He was awarded Honorary Life Membership in 1992, with the International Ombudsman Institute, in recognition of his service to the Institute and his outstanding contribution to the Ombudsman idea and ethos. At the time of his retirement, he was the world’s longest serving Ombudsman.

He is a Fellow of the Australian Society of Practising Accountants (CPA), an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries and Administrators, a graduate of the Royal Air Force Staff College, and a Justice of the Peace.

Norman is married to Audrey and they have four children, ten grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Some of his hobbies include restoring clocks and music boxes, golf, travel and cruising.

Norman has held the office of Past President and is a current member of the Melbourne Mechanical Music Society. He is a Past President and current member of the Defence Forces Welfare Association. His love of clocks led him to membership with the Australian Antiquarian Horological Society. He holds membership with the Royal United Services Institute (which serves the community by promoting a better understanding of defence and national security). Norman is also a member of the Air Force Association, the R&SL, and the Huntingdale Golf Club.

He has previously been the Chairman of the Inter-service Sports Committee, Chairman of the RAAF Road Safety Committee, President of St John’s Children’s Foundation, President of Oakleigh Youth Club, member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce (the Jaycees), and Chairman and member of other organisations and committees.

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