When the silly season gets that bit sillier…

‘TWAS Saturday before Xmas and all through the Fort,

Mischief was stirring, who would have thought?

For there was movement in the barracks

As the word had passed around that

The subbies were up to something big,

And all the lads had gathered for the fray.

There was one among them even wilder than the rest,

A captain known by one and all as Mad Carew,

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When the silly season gets that bit sillier… | Australian Defence History, Policy and Veterans Issues (targetsdown.blogspot.com)

Renewed RSL NSW Fire Brigades Sub-branch.

Australia’s defence force veterans who have served as firefighters are set to receive dedicated support through the re-establishment of a sub-branch by the RSL, marking the first initiative of its kind in four decades. The renewed NSW Fire Brigades sub-branch aims to provide enhanced assistance to over 400 current and former service personnel employed by Fire and Rescue NSW.

Originally established in the 1920s to aid in repatriation and medical support post-World War I, the sub-branch was disbanded in the 1980s due to insufficient membership. The current initiative recognizes the 405 defence force members, including FRNSW Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell, who have served in both the military and firefighting roles. Commissioner Fewtrell, an Army Reserve veteran, emphasized the significance of the sub-branch’s support, including access to essential wellbeing services.

Acknowledging the evolving needs of younger veterans from recent military deployments, Mr. Fewtrell stressed the importance of tailored support within a familiar environment. The re-establishment of the sub-branch reflects the commitment of RSL, Australia’s oldest veterans’ charity, to grassroots support and fostering community connections, as stated by RSL NSW President Mick Bainbridge.

Expressing his enthusiasm for the revival of camaraderie and support within Fire and Rescue NSW, Mr. Bainbridge emphasized the shared responsibility among veterans transitioning into careers as first responders. Highlighting the ongoing dedication of these veterans who continue to risk their lives in firefighting roles across the state, he underscored the importance of supporting each other through such transitions.

The announcement follows the RSL’s call for the government to establish an independent body focused on veteran health and wellbeing, a response to the royal commission into veteran suicides. The move signals a renewed commitment to addressing the unique challenges faced by veterans and underscores the importance of comprehensive support as they navigate different career paths.



Christmas Dinner During War.

When we think of Christmas, we often envision presents, decorations, and, most importantly, the festive Christmas dinner. However, the experience of Christmas dinner varied greatly for those enduring the hardships of war. Private Charles Bennett provides insight into the contrasting Christmas dinners in a 1916 English camp through his heartfelt letters home.

In Bennett’s recollection, his Christmas dinner comprised a sumptuous feast including turkey, ham, roast potatoes, peas, parsnips, Christmas pudding, café au lait, apples, oranges, bananas, saffron cakes, and mince pies. It was a celebration marked by abundance and shared joy.

Yet, not all soldiers shared such a fortunate experience. Captain Charles Gatliff, writing to his parents from somewhere in France in 1916, revealed a stark contrast. He lamented the absence of a real Christmas dinner, as parcels from home failed to arrive until the afternoon, leaving only the standard rations. However, the arrival of Christmas puddings brought by fellow officers returning from leave provided a touch of holiday cheer.

Gatliff compared this to a Christmas he spent in South Africa on the back of an open truck, where the meagre fare consisted of only bully beef and biscuits. Lieutenant Lancelot Horniman in 1915 similarly recorded his disdain for the sparse menu, deeming it “awful treatment for Christmas time” despite the relief of being free from Gallipoli.

The Second World War introduced Corporal Joseph Roxburgh’s contrasting experience during Christmas 1941 in Skudai camp, Malaya. His dinner included ham, turkey, baked potatoes, plum pudding, and even a bottle of Tiger beer. However, his fate took a turn as a prisoner of war by February 1942, leading to a stark Christmas dinner in 1944—1 ½ dessert spoons of fried whitebait, 1 dessert spoon of fried towgay, 2 pieces of fried tapioca, ½ baked bringle, 2 dessert spoons of Chinese cabbage, 1 vegetable pasty, 1 tempi cup, ½ pint of browned rice gravy, and one small Chester cake. This meagre meal left many prisoners feeling sick into Boxing Day, and the scarcity of toilet paper resulted in stripped leaves from trees around the camp.

On the home front, Constance McEwen shared her Christmas dinner in a diary to her son, unreachable in a prisoner of war camp. The festive meal included roast fowl, potatoes, pudding, Christmas cake, fruit salad, and cream. Organizations like the Red Cross and the Australian Comforts Funds played a crucial role in enhancing the festivities with care parcels.

In the First World War, Australian soldiers cherished the Christmas Billie, a parcel issued in December 1915 containing a plum pudding to be shared between two soldiers. Families back in Australia assembled these billies, and their contents, featured in soldiers’ diaries and letters, varied but often included sweets, cigarettes, chocolates, tinned pastries, a pipe, tobacco, playing cards, and other sundry items.

Lieutenant George Allardyce’s letter to his father described the contents of his Billie, while Lieutenant Donald Armstrong detailed another variation. These parcels, sent out by the Red Cross and Australian Comforts Fund, added a special touch to Christmas dinner for many soldiers, turning an ordinary meal into a festive occasion.

For Corporal Joseph Roxburgh and his fellow prisoners during the Second World War, saving items from their comforts parcel allowed them to enjoy a Christmas feast in their first year in the camp. Regardless of the circumstances, Australian soldiers emphasized the importance of the Christmas spirit and the act of celebration, valuing the camaraderie and shared festivities over the specifics of the meal or the location.

Picture: Members of C Section, 7th Australian Field Ambulance, unpacking their Christmas billies outside their tent lines at Lemnos Island. Each billy has a kangaroo symbol on the side. Identified, left to right: 3809 Private (Pte) Joseph Henry Williams, Pte W G Lake, 3776 Lance Corporal Crosby Hurburgh.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Lucy Thomas

Beautiful Christmas song sung by this amazing young girl … hope you enjoy.

Lucy Thomas, born on February 21, 2004, in the picturesque town of Wigan, Lancashire, England, is a 19-year-old British singer and a rising star in the music industry. As a Piscean, she brings both creativity and emotion to her craft, captivating audiences with her melodic voice and genuine passion for music.

Standing at approximately 5 feet 4 inches, Lucy possesses an enchanting presence that complements her musical prowess. With striking blue eyes and flowing brunette hair, she is a captivating figure both on and off the stage.

With boundless enthusiasm and a commitment to her craft, Lucy Thomas promises a captivating journey in the world of music. Her versatility and love for creating meaningful musical experiences mark her as a rising star to watch in the dynamic and ever-evolving music industry. As she continues to explore new horizons and push artistic boundaries, Lucy’s journey is one that music enthusiasts around the world eagerly anticipate.


SQN LDR Robert James Clarendon Whittle OAM, DFC

Amidst the tumultuous backdrop of World War II, Robert James Clarendon Whittle emerged as a symbol of unwavering courage and commitment. Born on July 10, 1914, in Brisbane, Australia, his destiny took a pivotal turn when he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in April 1940. Prior to his military service, Whittle had worked as a chemist in Murwillumbah, showcasing his versatility and intellectual acumen.

The exigencies of war led Whittle to undergo rigorous training before being deployed to the Middle East. On May 5, 1941, he found himself assigned to the 250 Squadron (RAF), where he swiftly demonstrated exceptional prowess as a fighter pilot. By mid-December of that year, his combat record was nothing short of remarkable – 9 aircraft destroyed, 1 shared destroyed, 2 probables, and 2 damaged.

Whittle’s exceptional service did not go unnoticed. His courage and skill in the face of adversity earned him the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM). The citation accompanying the award painted a vivid portrait of his character, emphasizing instances where he walked twenty miles through the night after being shot down, only to rejoin his squadron the next day. Even when wounded, Whittle displayed resilience by resuming operational flying within a mere two days, ultimately accounting for at least seven enemy aircraft.

His wartime odyssey took him briefly to the 730 Training Unit before returning to Australia in April 1942. In early 1943, Whittle joined the 86 Squadron, stationed in Merauke, Dutch New Guinea. His ascendancy continued as he was promoted to Flight Leader in September, later assuming the role of Commanding Officer on December 17. His final feats included downing a Zeke and sharing in the destruction of a Betty near Cape Valsch, bringing his total kills to an impressive 14.

After departing from active duty in June 1944, Whittle transitioned to a role as an instructor until his honourable discharge on December 4, 1945. Post-war, he returned to his pre-enlistment profession as a pharmacist. In 1946, he played a pivotal role in establishing the local Aero Club, imparting his aviation knowledge as an instructor.

A scion of the Whittle family, Bob maintained a profound connection to Murwillumbah. His 50-year tenure in the Rotary Club, including a term as President, underscored his commitment to community service. His association with the Tweed River Historical Society, later becoming the Murwillumbah Historical Society, was instrumental, earning him a Life Membership.

Educated at Brisbane Grammar School and qualified from Brisbane Pharmacy College, Bob Whittle’s dedication extended beyond the realms of war and professional life. He and his wife Frances raised five children in Murwillumbah. His contributions were further recognized by Tweed Shire Council, which named its light aircraft landing strip the Bob Whittle Airfield in acknowledgment of his meritorious service.

Today, the Murwillumbah Museum stands as a living testament to Bob Whittle’s passion for preserving the history of the Tweed. His selfless years of devotion and keen interest in the region’s early history have left an indelible mark, shaping the community’s understanding of its past. Bob’s legacy lives on, not only through the records of his wartime heroics but also in the cultural and historical fabric of Murwillumbah. His life, marked by bravery, resilience, and dedication, serves as an enduring inspiration for generations to come.

ED: I’m proud to tell you that the Late Bob Whittle was my uncle … he will never be forgotten. Ray

Only confirmed RAAF victory over MiG-15 in the Korean War

Picture: 1952. 032542 Pilot Officer Bill Simmonds of No. 77 Squadron RAAF, in his Gloster Meteor aircraft

On the historic date of May 8, 1952, Pilot Officer W.H. (‘Bill’) Simmonds etched his name into the annals of aviation history by achieving the sole fully confirmed Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) victory over a Communist MiG-15 during the Korean War. Engaged in a pivotal mission, Simmonds, part of a formidable flight comprising four Meteors from No 77 Squadron, found themselves tasked with safeguarding US bombers executing the largest single attack of the conflict thus far. The target: a strategically significant supply depot situated at Sunan, which has since transformed into the modern site of Pyongyang airport.

The intense battle unfolded when a squadron of MiG-15s, the formidable adversary of the Korean War skies, ambushed the formation from the rear. Amidst the chaos and the thunderous roar of jet engines, Simmonds demonstrated exceptional skill and composure as he swiftly positioned his Meteor onto the tail of one of the MiGs, the enemy aircraft passing perilously close—less than 10 meters below. In a daring and precise manoeuvre, Simmonds unleashed a sustained burst of cannon fire upon his target, the deafening roar of the weaponry echoing through the skies.

The dramatic engagement culminated in a spectacular result, as two other RAAF pilots in the flight attested to witnessing the enemy pilot ejecting from his spiralling MiG just before it crashed into the earth below. This triumphant encounter marked a significant milestone for the Australian contingent, adding to the tally of five MiGs reported downed by Australian pilots during the entirety of the war. Notably, this particular event stood out as the singular occasion where no doubt lingered regarding the validity of the claim—Simmonds had unequivocally secured a victory for the RAAF against the formidable MiG-15, exemplifying courage and skill in the tumultuous skies over Korea.

UK Deploys HMS Diamond to Red Sea.

The Red Sea is currently facing heightened security measures as the United Kingdom deploys its Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Diamond, to participate in Operation Prosperity Guardian. This mission aims to safeguard the freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, ensuring the protection of international trade and countering illicit activities occurring in the region’s international waters.

The escalation in security measures comes in response to recent incidents in the Red Sea, triggered by Houthi attacks on international shipping. Reports indicate that ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial systems have been employed in targeting ships, leading major operators to suspend their operations in the affected area.

HMS Diamond, recognized as the Royal Navy’s “most advanced” warship, has been tasked with patrolling alongside three US destroyers, with an additional French warship currently positioned in the same region. In a notable achievement, HMS Diamond successfully intercepted a suspected attack drone.

Highlighting the significance of the shipping lanes in the Red Sea, the UK Ministry of Defence emphasized that approximately 50 large merchant ships traverse the Bab el-Mandeb daily, connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. The Ministry expressed concern over the illegal attacks on these vital routes, labelling them as an unacceptable threat to the global economy, jeopardizing regional security, and potentially causing an increase in fuel prices.

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps emphasized the international nature of the problem, asserting that these attacks require a collaborative, global solution.

Defence to align rhetoric with action in 2024.

The Defence Strategic Review by the Australian government has outlined six key areas for immediate action to safeguard the nation in the face of increasing global power competition and multipolarity. These priorities include acquiring nuclear-powered submarines through AUKUS, enhancing the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) ability to strike targets at longer ranges and produce munitions domestically, improving operations from northern bases, fostering a skilled defence workforce, swiftly integrating disruptive technologies, and strengthening diplomatic and defence partnerships in the Indo-Pacific.

Additionally, the review directed Defence to eliminate unnecessary barriers to acquisitions, streamline important projects and low-complexity procurements, expedite decision-making in defence projects, and collaborate closely with the defence industry to find practical solutions.

Industry reactions to the Defence Strategic Review have been mixed, transitioning from initial optimism to frustration. The delay in the release of the Defence Industry Development Strategy (DIDS) has added to industry concerns. The DIDS aims to establish the rationale for a sovereign defence industrial base, outline targeted industrial capability priorities, plan for workforce growth, propose procurement reforms, enhance security in defence businesses, and provide a detailed implementation plan.

This unfolds against the backdrop of a deteriorating global security order and a post-World War II paradigm shift, creating a sense of urgency that appears to be underestimated by both the government and the Australian public. As global events escalate, there is a growing realisation that Australia needs to act swiftly and effectively. The year 2024 is seen as a pivotal moment, marking a significant turning point in the global security paradigm. Australia needs Defence to align rhetoric with action, as the emerging global order may not be benevolent to the nation’s values and interests. There is a pressing need for execution to bridge the gap between discourse and concrete measures.


Christmas & New Year shutdown.

Dearest Frontline community,

Tomorrow will be my final posts to Frontline until the 2nd of January 2024. With Christmas upon us, my home is bustling with the warmth of visiting relatives, and the inviting presence of a house and caravan teeming with shared stories and laughter.

Beyond the simple politeness of not spending my time in the office during this festive season with a house full of guests, there’s a deeper reason. I’ve been blessed with 55 years of marriage, and my aim is to make 56 years!

Reflecting on the past year, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for your unwavering support. Together with my son Glenn, we embarked on a journey to rebrand the site, and although we encountered a few glitches, your steadfast presence and encouragement carried us through.

Julie, with her unyielding support, has been my rock, her unwavering support, stands as my backstop, enabling me to navigate this incredible journey with Frontline. Her understanding and support are the pillars that allow me to devote the time I do.

As we embrace the spirit of Christmas, my heartfelt wishes extend to each and every one of you and your families. May your homes be filled with the pure joy and excitement that this Christmas and New Year season brings. In the midst of the festivities, let’s take a moment to remember those who may not be as fortunate and send warm thoughts to our servicemen deployed or without the luxury of a stand-down.

Looking ahead to 2024, I hope your plans are filled with promise and joy. May you all be blessed with good health, and may the coming year unfold as a tapestry of beautiful moments and accomplishments.

Thank you once again for being an integral part of Frontline and my life. Your support has been a beacon of light, and I am truly grateful. Until we reconnect in the new year, I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

With cheers,

Ray, Julie & Glenn.