Today we pause to remember the life and service of Captain Peter James McCarthy, of the Royal Australian Corps of Transport, who was killed in action whilst serving on peacekeeping operations in Lebanon on the 12th of January 1988.
Originally an Army Reservist, Peter completed his training in Devonport, Tasmania before transferring to the ARA.
He was one of 13 Australians serving in the Middle East with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) at the time of his death. As part of his role in UNTSO, he was detached to an observation group monitoring the military zone in Southern Lebanon.
Peter was tragically killed on the 12th of January 1988 when his jeep struck a landmine during a routine patrol. He was the first Australian to be killed whilst attached to a UN operation.
Lest we forget.
National Servicemen’s Day, a day where we honour those who have served our nation through compulsory military service.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester said it is important to remember these men who put their lives on the line in the service of our country in times of significant need.
“Our nation has seen four periods of compulsory military service, with the most recent two schemes between 1951–1959 and 1964–1972,” Mr Chester said.
“The last scheme was introduced at a time of heightened regional tension with Australia’s ongoing involvement in the Vietnam War and the Government took this significant step to increase the size of Australia’s military.
“This was not full-scale conscription, rather National Servicemen or ‘Nashos’ were chosen from men of 20 years of age using a ballot system held twice a year.
“If your birthday was drawn from the ballot and you met certain security and fitness criteria you could be selected to serve two years in the Army followed by three years in the Army Reserve. In August 1971 the two-year term was reduced to 18 months. ”
From 1964–1972 more than 804,000 men registered for national service, with more than 60,000 called up to serve. Of these, more than 15,000 served in the Vietnam War, where some 200 were killed and more than 1,200 wounded.
“On Tuesday 18 February, Australia will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Operation Hammersley, one of our significant operations in the Vietnam War. This will be an opportunity to remember all those who served in the Operation, including our Nashos,” Mr Chester said.
“I encourage all Australians to take time out to reflect on the unique nature of the service and sacrifice of these men and ensure they are always remembered.”
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Originally from Aveley, Western Australia, Jamie enlisted in the ARA and was subsequently posted to 3RAR.
He deployed with the Battalion to East Timor as part of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
Jamie was tragically killed after falling into a 15m sinkhole whilst on patrol on Mount Austin, east of the capital Honiara.
Jamie was the second Australian member of RAMSI to die in the Solomons.
He was 21 at the time of his death.
Lest we forget.
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On the 12th of March 1951, soldiers from 3RAR captured Hill 703 as part of the Battle of Maehwa-San during the Korean War. In cooperation with British and Canadian troops, the objective of 3RAR was the capture of the 3,560ft high mountain that was the high feature in the area. The Capture of Hill 703 marked an end of the battle
The battle began on 7 March, with 3RAR being ordered to capture Hill 410. A Company and D Company descended into the valley at 10:00 and advanced through open paddy fields under fire, then across the Asi-Ri–Punsuwon Road, to climb Hill 410. A Company ascended a third of the way up a spur before being pinned down by massed machine gun and light mortar fire. Calling for artillery and mortar support from 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery and the United States Army B Company 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, the fire support could not dislodge the PVA/KPA, who were dug in, in machine gun and rifle pits.
D Company climbed a parallel spur to the right of A Company and also found the going difficult. At 15:00, D Company finally crossed the ridge line. Snowstorms began in the afternoon and hampered the evacuation of the wounded but A Company was able to advance. B Company then joined the two forward companies to consolidate the position.
In the fighting, 3RAR lost 12 killed and 24 wounded, while the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion suffered two wounded. At 06:30 on 8 March, B Company secured the rest of Hill 410 without opposition after the PVA/KPA withdrew during the night.
Over the following days, 3RAR would assist the other countries in the capture of Hills 532, 390, 326 and 432 without opposition, before commencing simultaneous attacks on Hills 703, 752 and 642. While forming up for the attack 3RAR headquarters received light mortar fire from the right flank without suffering any casualties.
As A Company and C Company 3RAR moved towards Hill 435 across the valley floor, A Company came under heavy fire from the village of Chisan to the right. The Republic of Korea Army (ROK) 6th Infantry Division had failed to attack as ordered with the result that the right flank of the brigade was exposed. 2 Platoon from A Company assaulted the village of Chisan, killing 30 PVA/KPA soldiers, before heavy mortar and machine gun fire forced the platoon to withdraw. A Company suffered two killed and seven wounded.
C Company 3RAR had continued towards its objectives and by 15:00 was pinned down just below the ridge of Hill 703 and remained in the position throughout the night. The 2nd PPCLI and 1st Argylls were able to secure Hill 642 and Hill 752 without opposition. With the ROK 6th Division still not having moved forward, C Company, 1st Middlesex protected 3 RAR’s right flank.
On 12 March, C Company had moved onto the crest and advanced to Hill 703 at 06:30. B Company and D Company 3RAR, moved up to consolidate Hill 703, which had been abandoned hurriedly during the night. The US 7th Marine Regiment moved forward and secured the right flank of the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade.
The operation resulted in a resounding Coalition success, but came at the cost of 14 Australians killed and 39 wounded. 3RAR was awarded the battle honour ‘Maehwa-san’ for their part in this action.
Lest we forget.
The 2005 Nias Island Sea King crash was the crash of a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Westland WS-61 Sea King helicopter (tail number N16-100, call sign “Shark 02”) of 817 Squadron RAN at approximately 4 pm (local time) on 2 April 2005 with 11 personnel on board. The accident occurred while “Shark 02” was making its approach to land on a sports field located near the village of Tuindrao in the region of Amandraya on the Indonesian island of Nias. “Shark 02” had been providing humanitarian support to the people of the earthquake-devastated region.
Nine personnel died in the accident, including six members of the RAN and three members of the Royal Australian Air Force.
Two personnel survived the crash: Navy Leading Seaman Shane Warburton, and Air Force Corporal Scott Nichols.
The state visit of President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, allowed him to present the Medal of Valour – his country’s highest honour – to each of the deceased, placing a medal on each casket. The two survivors were awarded with the honour at a later time.
The Indonesian award highlighted a problem of awarding similar honours by the Australian Government, as the servicemen and women had been part of a humanitarian operation at the time of the incident, not a military one. This was overcome by changing the circumstances for the award of the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal, so that all who served in the Indonesian humanitarian mission would be eligible, including the nine deceased and two survivors.
On 17 March 2008, the actions of one of the survivors, former Leading Seaman Warburton, were recognised with Australia’s second highest bravery award, the Star of Courage. The Minister for Defence, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, said that Shane Warburton’s actions in saving a colleague while facing immense personal danger was a significant act of heroism worthy of such recognition. The Minister said his selfless act was particularly noteworthy given he himself was seriously injured in the accident.
On 26 May 2009, four Indonesian men – Benar Giawa, Adiziduhu Harefa, Motani Harefa and Seti Eli Ndruru – were awarded the Bravery Medal at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, for their role in rescuing the survivors of “Shark 02”. Together, they carried the men to safety away from the crash site, made the Australians comfortable and provided first aid.
In September 2005, the remains of the deceased ADF personnel were interred in a memorial at Russell Offices in Canberra
In memory of 1RAR LCPL Shannon McAliney, who died while serving on peacekeeping operations in Somalia on 2 April 1993.
The 21-year-old from Ballina was going out on patrol when another soldier handed him his Steyr rifle to hold. The rifle discharged and the bullet hit Shannon in the stomach at point blank range. Although he was wearing a flak jacket, he suffered massive internal injuries and, despite efforts to treat the wound, he died later that night.
Thank you for your service, Shannon. Rest in peace.
* Photo shows Shannon assisting a Somali woman at a food distribution centre in the Bay Region of southern Somalia during Operation Solace. © Australian War Memorial