Bring Them Home
Reg Hillier's Grave
Chris Clark Reg Hillier Tom Simpson
Thousands of Australian dead servicemen from the Boer War, World War 1, World War 2 and the Korean War, remain in overseas graves. Several factors merge to make this acceptable. Firstly, these men lie together with their mates in military cemeteries close to where they had fallen. Secondly, the vast numbers made the transport costs home to Australia prohibitive at the time of their death. Thirdly, transport technology in previous years (say prior to 1960) was slow and cumbersome and nigh impossible. In the modern era, technology and fast giant transports have shortened distances to manageable levels, making the return home of KIA quite feasible.
In May 1966 the first Australian conscript soldier to be killed during the Vietnam War was Errol Noack. His father threatened to 'kick up a storm' after he had been advised by an army captain and chaplain, who had knocked on the door of his home in Port Lincoln South Australia, that his son was to be buried in Malaysia unless his transport home could be funded by the family. In the face of more political controversy over the war, and conscription in particular, the Commonwealth authorities relented and brought his body home to Australia, as they did for nearly all subsequent remains of dead servicemen. Before that, and since, some 25 Australian military dead (one, Badcoe, a V.C. recipient) have been left buried or cremated in Malaysia and (one in Singapore), interred in isolated and restricted cemeteries, that had nothing to do with the war zone in which they had been killed. The families of these men had been given the option of each soldier's remains being RTA at the family's own expense. The cost, 500 pounds at the time, was prohibitive for most. The average weekly wage then was just 21 pounds. Prior to the Government's change of policy in 1966, several families, of Vietnam KIAs, those who could afford it, agreed to pay for their loved one's remains to be returned back here.
The 100 year anniversary of the Gallipoli disaster was approaching. At the time of writing this poem (early 2015), there was a concerted push to have the remains of these 25 servicemen, with next of kin consent, returned to Australia. The aim was for them to be buried either in cemeteries amongst their mates, or in cemeteries here, suitable for families and friends of the deceased, to mourn appropriately. Thankfully, the endeavour was successful and many of the 25 have now been returned for re-burial here in Australia. Several families elected to leave the remains of their kin in Malaysia undisturbed. They at least had the choice, finally.
♪♪ I wanna go home! I wanna go home!
Oh ... Lord ... I wanna ... go home !♪♪
- from Detroit City, sung by Bobby Bare, 1965.
“Have you forgotten yet?
Look down and swear by the slain of the war …
… that you will never forget!”
- Sigfried Sassoon (on the Western Front, 1917)
Bring Them Home
‘Twas a tragic last page, one I hadn't read,
Nigh on 50 odd years, they’ve each been dead,
25 KIA in Vietnam.
They'd fought and they’d died, like all of the rest,
Each over there, at our ‘pollies’ behest,
Unaware, now ashamed, I am !
Decree had declared, that they all could,
R.T.A. if any of their kin just would,
Pay all the incurring expense.
Five hundred pounds, their transfer fee,
Nigh a year's full salary, for the likes of me,
A cruel heartless demand, with no defence !
Years lie they, in some foreign land,
Why 25 ignored? I can't understand,
Whilst rhetoric spewed here, each ANZAC Day !
As the Ode is read, hollow pledges made,
And 'pollies' stand in limelight, on each parade,
Yet, forgotten fallen, overseas still lay !
Remains of criminals, from Indonesia flown,
Our public purse, brought them back home,
Now made ‘heroes’, past dark deeds ignored !
Like our Diggers too, though their worth displayed,
Still neglected, abandoned, appear betrayed,
Dumped in foreign soil, 'twas a poor reward !
‘Tis time we stood up! Demand what is fair!
“COME ON AUSTRALIA!” And show we care!
These boys remain, each one still awaits!
Allow their families and friends to mourn,
And have them returned, by next ANZAC dawn,
Bring them home to rest, amongst all their mates!
CONWAY, Kevin 13097 Warrant Officer 26 July 1964 AATTV RAINF
SMITH, Francis J 37003 Corporal 21 Sep 1965 1 RAR
FIELD, Ronald E 214479 Private 9 Oct 1965 1 RAR
ROSS, Thomas 212612 Lance Corporal 12 Oct 1965 1 RAR
HILLIER, Reginald H MID 40774 Corporal 29 Nov 1965 1 RAR B Coy
SIMPSON, Thomas 36205 Gunner 9 Dec 1965 Artillery 105 FB CLARK, Christopher 215215 Private 8 Jan 1966 1 RAR
HORNE, Neville W 215217 Private 8 Jan 1966 1 RAR
WILSON, Mervyn A F 213780 Private 8 Jan 1966 1 RAR
BOWTELL, Robert W 213151 Corporal 11 Jan 1966 3 FIELD TROOP RAE
LEES, Ronald V 26182 Warrant Officer 2 13 Jan 1966 AATTV RAA
PHILLIPS, Thomas D 42352 Warrant Officer 2 20 Mar 1966 AATTV RAAC
RUDUSS, Arthur 3410295 Lance Corporal 12 Jun 1966 AA HQ 1 Task Force
HOLLAND, Tony 3786634 Trooper 7 Jul 1966 RAA 3 Cav 1APC SQN
CHECKLEY, Thomas W 311534 Gunner 5 Aug 1966 Artillery 131 Loc Bat
HANLEY, Maxwell P MM 43593 Warrant Officer 2 20 Feb 1967 AATTV
BADCOE, Peter J VC 41400 Major 7 Apr 1967 AATTVN RAINF
ALLEN, Norman G 2784699 Private 10 Nov 1967 7 RAR
BIRSE, Robert 215349 Lieutenant 10 Dec 1967 Artillery 4 field Regt
PEARCE, John G S 2784043 Corporal 14 May 1968 1 RAR
ABBOTT, Dal E 2786017 Private 30 May 1968 1 RAR
CARROLL, Ronald T 14208 Sergeant 4 Aug 1968 3 RAR
GARRIGAN, John 310089 Warrant Officer 2 27 Dec 1968 AATTV RAA ARCHER, Gary A 2788583 Private 4 Feb 1969 9 RAR JELLIE, Allan D 39510 2nd Lieutenant 3 Dec 1969 AA Aviation Corps
KRANJI CEMETERY SINGAPORE and TERANDAK CEMETERY MALAYSIA