Apache attack helicopter begins ADF trials on HMAS Canberra

By: Robert Dougherty

The Australian Defence Force is trialling an Apache attack helicopter on the HMAS Canberra in Sydney.

The iconic American twin-turboshaft attack helicopter started compatibility trials aboard the HMAS Canberra landing helicopter dock ship in service with the Royal Australian Navy on 22 February.

US military, Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army, and Royal Australian Air Force were present onboard the ship to oversee the trial.

Royal Australian Navy Leading Seaman Thomas Atkinson (pictured below), who conducts aviation maintenance, said the trials started with military personnel checking for helicopter-to-ship compatibility.

“They’re just conducting trials to find out the compatibility with the landing helicopter dock. They basically land and take-off, and they’re also testing to make sure all the ships systems are compatible,” he said.

The Apache is the primary attack helicopter of numerous nations including America, Greece, Japan, Israel, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.

It hosts an armament of Hydra-70 rockets, hellfire, air-to-ground or air-to-air missiles and a 30mm cannon.

The Australian Defence Force is expected to replace its Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopters with AH-64E Apache Guardians. Twenty-nine helicopters will be purchased with a scheduled fleet of 12 operational helicopters in 2026 and the full complement by 2028.

HMAS Canberra Commanding Officer Captain Jace Hutchison said the helicopter could become a major asset for the ADF.

“The Apache is the next stepping stone (for the Australian Defence Forces) because the Australian Army is going to be purchasing that aircraft,” he said.

“It’s going to be the attack helicopter first strike for the ADF and it needs to operate from the landing helicopter dock.”


Six ships home after busy year

The Royal Australian Navy is this month welcoming home more than 1000 personnel and six ships from maritime training exercises with regional partners.

The ships and their company have conducted port visits to more than 16 countries throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

Newly appointed Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Chris Smith recognised the contribution of the returning men and women and their families.

“Officers and sailors from across the fleet can feel justifiably proud of their contribution protecting Australia’s national interests this year,” Rear Admiral Smith said.

“These regional presence deployments support Australia’s long-term security and prosperity by building deeper connections with our partners, which are vitally important in protecting the Australian community’s interests while promoting stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Guided missile destroyer HMAS Hobart returned to Fleet Base East in Sydney on December 16, after more than three months away.

While deployed, Hobart engaged with the Philippines, Japan and Singapore and participated in exercises Sama Sama Lumbus and Keen Sword, where Hobart integrated with the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group.

In the previous week, HMA Ships StalwartAnzacArunta and Adelaide returned to their respective homeports following similar integrated regional deployments.

“While we are seeing some of our biggest ships return to Australia for the Christmas break, the Navy continues to support constabulary operations and maintains a readiness to respond to contingencies 365 days of the year,” Rear Admiral Smith said.

The ships were deployed in task groups, with some supporting Australia’s flagship regional engagement activity, Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2022 (IPE22).

During IPE22, Adelaide and Anzac, along with 500 soldiers of the Australian Amphibious Force, worked with Indonesian marines to conduct a joint amphibious capability demonstration for the first time.

HMAS Brisbane will return from the Pacific later this month. The ship participated with RAAF in advanced training scenarios with the United States off the coast of Hawaii, increasing integration with US partners across multiple warfighting domains.


Shadow Cabinet opposes placing the Australian War Memorial amidst partisan debate

Shadow Cabinet has opposed any move that could put the Australian War Memorial at the centre of partisan political debate, saying its sanctity as a shrine of remembrance to Australian servicemen and women who made sacrifices in conflicts against an external foe, must be preserved.

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Barnaby Joyce, said the Coalition recognised the historic conflicts between Europeans and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations referred to by some as the ‘frontier wars’; and recognised the historic internecine conflicts amongst Australia’s first nations’ peoples.

“The fundamental element is that the War Memorial was built in sacred recognition of wars that Australians fought as a nation, unified against an external foe. It is not to be a memorial for conflicts within Australia”, he said.

“The truth of both is absolute but the fundamental element is different. There are many memorials in Australia and in Canberra that represent the ultimate sacrifice of the person who lays down their life for others in a noble cause, but they are not all in the Australian War Memorial. This does not judge the value of those lives as different.

“Shadow Cabinet resolved that conflicts involving first nations’ people are best remembered at Ngurra, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Precinct, for which design work is already underway”, Mr Joyce said.

The new Ngurra facility, which the former Coalition Government had already committed nearly $320 million towards, will be built in the Parliamentary Triangle between Old Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial, in the heart of the nation’s capital.

“It’s positioning between the Australian War Memorial and the Parliament, by its very location, is a better philosophical representation of the issues pertinent to internal conflict as opposed to a common sacrifice against an external foe”, he said.

“It is proposed this will be both a learning centre and a national resting place for the care of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains. Over time, Ngurra will collect its own traditions and rituals that will be born from its national status as a place to celebrate, educate, reflect, and commemorate”, he said.

Mr Joyce said the Australian War Memorial was a place of unity which remembered all those who had fought for Australia, for a common purpose against a common foe.

“Conflicts within Australia that pitted Australians against other Australians in our own land, in some instances internecine, should be represented and discussed in a memorial that takes into account this significant difference, and not at the Australian War Memorial which has its philosophical remit in the carnage suffered by those who went to fight for Australia in the First World War”, Mr Joyce said.

The Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP

Member for New England

Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

2 Field Ambulance Vietnam 1966/7

Forming part of the Australian Military committment in South Vietnam in 1966, 2 Field Ambulance was committed to Vietnam in March 1966 to support the Australian forces in Vietnam. Stationed at Vung Tau from 1 April 1966 until 5 July 1967, the unit included a 50 bed hospital element, a hygiene squad, a medical stores component and a surgical team comprising a surgeon and anaesthetist.

A detachment of the field ambulance moved to the Task Force base at Nui Dat to establish a subsidiary minor medical facility, its main function, to provide emergency medical treatment before evacuation for more definitive treatment. Medical facilities were supplemented by Regimental Aid Posts from some Task Force units.

8 Field Ambulance( tour 2 March 1967-12 March 1972) replaced 2 Field Ambulance in April 1967 and provided medical facilities at Vung Tau and Nui Dat until 1972.

On the 1st April, 1968, 1 Australian Field Hospital was opened at Vung Tau and catered for the Austalian wounded until 21 November 1971.


The Massacre of the 3rd Light Horse

Disaster at the Nek: The Massacre of the Australian 3rd Light Horse;
7th August 1915 “Goodbye and God Bless”

By Lieutenant Colonel Alistair Pope, psc, CM (Australian Army, Retired)


In Peter Weir’s film “Gallipoli” when Mel Gibson screamed an anguished “No!” everyone in the audience was horrified as they knew that 600 men were being sent to their death. In the film Gibson failed to reach the Command Post in time to prevent the charge of the 8th & 10th Light Horse Regiments at the Nek. Weir’s film was good cinema, but bad history. In the film indolent and uncaring tea-drinking British officers were blamed for the Australian disaster at the Nek, when in fact it was an entirely Australian affair. The destruction of the 8th and part of the 10th Light Horse became something that everyone in Australia knew about, but nobody mentioned. As a result incompetent officers continued their careers uninterrupted by blame or guilt – while their heroic soldiers died needless deaths. One question that continues to intrigue historians, sociologists and psychologists today is: why did they do it? There are some indisputable facts about the disaster that befell the 8th and 10th Light Horse Regiments; the rest is myth, legend and truly heroic sacrifice.

The ‘plan’ to capture the Turkish position at “The Nek” was as simple as any attack plan can be. Bombard the enemy for thirty minutes then charge them head-on and capture or kill them with the bayonet.

The Reasons for the Attack

After the amphibious landings on 25th April 1915 at ANZAC cove any chance of advancing across the peninsula had petered out. By May the initiative was lost and a ‘Western Front’ stalemate among the hills and gullies of the peninsula was solidly in place. Both sides were now well-entrenched and any attack to gain a few metres could only be made at an extraordinary price in lives. In August just such an attack was planned by the Allies to break the deadlock by capturing the high ground of a feature called Sari Bair then held by the Turks. This advance was eventually designed to link up with a new landing taking place further up the peninsula at Suvla Bay.

To reach the Turkish entrenchments on “Baby 700” required crossing ‘The Nek’, an area about the size of three tennis courts, and no more than 30 yards wide. The attack by the Australian 3rd Light Horse Brigade was planned as a diversion, supported by an attack by the New Zealanders from the rear of the position, from Chunuk Bair, a position they were due to capture during the night of 6th August 915.

The Attack

The attack was due to commence at 04.30 am of 7th August, preceded by a 30 minute naval bombardment. However, as the watches of the naval gunners and the troops had not been synchronized the guns fell silent seven minutes early. The Light Horsemen waited while the Turkish soldiers re-occupied their positions and set up interlocking machine guns. At the due time the first wave of 150 men of the 8th Light Horse ‘went over the top’, led by their commander, Lt Col A. H. White. They were mown down in seconds, but it was reported
(almost certainly incorrectly) that some made it to the Turkish trenches. Based on this report the second wave attacked two minutes later and were also massacred.

The Commander of the Western Australian 10th Light Horse, Lt Col N. M. Brazier appealed to the Brigade Major, Colonel J. M. Antill to call off the slaughter, but Antill (who thoroughly disliked Brazier) simply replied “Push on.”

Brazier returned to his regiment and ordered the third wave to charge. The ‘battle’ had become nothing less than plain murder. The Turks were now thoroughly ready and killed or wounded all 150 men within thirty seconds of leaving their own parapet! Brazier again appealed to Antill to stop the slaughter – and received the same reply to “Push on.” However, this time Brazier found the Brigade Commander, Brigadier Hughes who lamely suggested trying a different angle of attack. Finally Hughes agreed to call off the attack, but before Brazier could return to the trenches the left flank of the fourth line rose from their trench and charged without orders in the absolute certainty that they would be killed. Their attack went no further than their predecessors.

Supporting Attacks

It would be remiss to honour these warriors without mentioning some other equally brave actions on the same day. At Quinn’s Post, in another diversionary attack 2nd Light Horse Regiment of the 1st Light Horse Brigade sent 50 men in the first of four waves to attack a Turkish trench less than 20 yards (18 metres) away. The follow up attack was called off when
49 of the 50 troops were killed without crossing even this short space. In a supporting attack two companies of the Royal Welch Fusiliers launched an attack against a strong position called the “Chessboard” (because of its interlocking trenches). That attack was also abandoned after 65 casualties were incurred for no gain.

The Results

It is often said that as WW1 was a war of attrition in which the measure of success is the number of enemy casualties inflicted compared to one’s own. By any measure August 7th,
1915 was a disaster for the Australians. Of the 500 or so men from the 3rd Light Horse Brigade who charged at the Nek that day 372 were killed or wounded. The cemetery at the Nek contains the remains of 316 Australians. A further 49 died from 1st Light Horse Brigade and 65 from the Royal Welch Fusiliers. It is possible that the Turks may have suffered a few casualties.

Their Epitaph

Trooper Harold Rush died in the third wave. His headstone in the Walker’s Ridge Cemetery records his last words to friend nearby:

“Goodbye Cobber; God Bless You”

As the Author, Les Carlyon writes after visiting the scene of such heroism – and such a waste of heroes, “… visitors to the peninsula stare at the words and wonder why, when they open their mouths, no words come out.”

The question of ‘why’ remains unanswered and forever unanswerable. The Australians of that era felt a need to prove they had the grit and fortitude to be the equal of any in the British Empire. But those were also the days when supporting your ‘cobbers’ (friends and colleagues) was the most important part of the ethos of a pioneering, frontier nation. They died for each other as that counted for more to them than life itself or anything else.

They truly embodied the Spartan epitaph at Thermopylae:


Gunners on target

Exercise Chau Pha

Gunners, forward observers and command post officers of the 4th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (4 Regt) were put through their paces on one of the most explosive and dynamic artillery exercises.

Exercise Chau Pha, held at the Townsville field training area in June, was designed to progress live-fire certification from battery to regimental level, and prove the regiment’s ability to provide offensive support to combat teams within the battlespace.

Lieutenant Genevieve Butler, from 106 Battery, completed her first live-fire plan as a command post officer (CPO) during the exercise and said it was a high-pressure, high-reward experience.

“When you’ve got live ammunition and people relying on you to know the information is accurate, it is really daunting,” Lieutenant Butler said.

“But we’ve also got the staff around us for safety and the gunners know what they’re doing, so it’s a seamless exercise.”

As the CPO, Lieutenant Butler was responsible for receiving the forward observers’ call for fire and computing that data for the gunline to then engage specific targets within precise timeframes.

“It’s pretty cool to be commanding the battery, as my first live-fire activity as well,” she said.

“Having the ability to facilitate all of those rounds being sent down range and working with the gun line, it’s a pretty rewarding experience.”

Lieutenant Butler said there was a great sense of relief after completing the mission successfully.

“When you’re sitting in the protected mobility vehicle during a fire mission, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s going smoothly, but then you hear the rounds are landing on target. Hearing that play out in real life is a really good feeling,” she said.


Australian Army Gunners Thomas Graham, left, and Zach Campbell from the 4th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, load the M777 155mm Howitzer during Exercise Chau Pha. Photo: Gunner Gregory Scott

Sending more than 300 bombs down range from his gun detachment in just one day, 106 Battery Delta detachment commander Bombardier Patrick Bartlett said the opportunity to conduct large live-fire missions was an unmatched experience of adrenaline and physical endurance.

“Shooting bombs is one of those uniquely addictive experiences you get to experience in Defence,” Bombardier Bartlett said.

“There’s really nothing that compares to finishing a fire mission with large fire rates; it’s an absolute dream.

“Physically, artillery is one of the most explosive and high-intensity jobs. The gun preparation is pretty taxing; the guys are lifting 45 kilo bombs at a minimum, barrel-ramming and getting repelling charges ready. It can be exhausting.”

But many hands make light work, and Bombardier Bartlett said there was a lot of training and preparation to ensure all the gunners were prepared to execute high-level live-fire plans in the field.

“Team synchronicity is absolutely paramount,” he said.

“We can’t move the gun without a team effort and that’s why we train our lads really hard, so they can integrate with anyone in our battery and do their drills accordingly.”

The regiment is now certified to participate in the upcoming Brolga series of exercises, where it will integrate as the 3rd Combat Brigade’s organic fire support.

A Diggers Post

Hi Ray ,

 An old mate of mine Gary (Lumps) Swalling “Nasho 12 Intake Queenslander“ Vietnam 69/70  has just put this up on YouTube. If you think it’s good to send out on your “Veteranweb” and Importantly “Lumps” gives his approval, I will leave it up to you. This is not the first clip that Lumps has published on YouTube.
Mike Sheahan

VALE: Colin Garson – RAA

Peter Gore has advised us of the death on 1 May 2022 of RAAA(Q) Life Subscriber and loyal supporter Colin (Col) Garson. He was a regular attendee at their lunches, only ceasing when he was no longer physically able to manage. Col had been in Residential Aged Care for some time and was admitted to Prince Charles Hospital (Chermside), where he died a short time later.

Col’s history included National Service in the 50s and 60s, with RAA postings to both 11 Fd Regt and 5 Fd Regt.  He was 89 years young.

Funeral details will be advised when available.

RIP Col Garson – a true gentleman.

Peter Bruce

Obituary Resource Officer


Sadly we have been informed by John Heslewood & Barry Vassella, that Peter Howard (DETTO) DETTMAN passed away on Friday 1 April 2022 from a heart attack.

At this time, it will be a private family funeral, location, time etc are unknown.   If any more information becomes available, we’ll let you know.

Please join us in offering our deepest sympathy to those who will mourn the passing of a loved one.  Another 6 RAR family member, taken too soon.


Allan Whelan, Secretary