Saturday, November 10, 2012

Also, (sounds like an afterthought already), I'd like to urge anyone who reads this blog to make a contribution - tell your own story here. Email me at wahe@dodo.com.au

MORE ON THE DLAPIPER REVIEW AND RELATED ISSUES


Summed up, the foreword to Volume One of the DLA Piper Review speaks of history, tradition, pride, honour, bravery and unselfishness in the Defence forces. Then, just in case you didn’t get the message, loyalty and broad community confidence are added to the mix. We’re then told there have been enquiries in the past and that Defence supplied DLAPiper with details of these…And there’s the suggestion that it’s perfectly understandable that Defence was obstructive, hindering the process, apparently because it might – and it gets a touch vague on this point – ‘affect operational capability.’ You can bet your left bollock that it might also affect recruiting numbers if today’s young people are made aware of the presence of rapists among the higher ranks of the respective armed forces.

A couple of paragraphs in, we’re reminded that there were, are, victims involved in this process. There’s some genuine substance to follow, with the statement that the Defence Forces belong to the people and not to present or former members. Cool. I’m not sure, however, what operational excellence and ownership have to do with what was actually being investigated. I am reminded of one of  the major flaws in the RAPKE INQUIRY of 1971 which was that a basically phantom question was raised and, incredibly,  answered in the negative. That was: Did Leeuwin, JRTE, have some kind of initiation ceremony? I have no idea where that one sprang from but it seems to have been through a comparison with the Naval College. Shane Connolly was bashed by a gang of senior boys. In my understanding, no-one was questioning behaviour at the Naval College or the presence or otherwise, of initiation ceremonies at Leeuwin, but, it made for a nice, reassuring, judicial conclusion and subsequent headline. Rapke, when one reads the testimony of OD John White,  basically accuses White of bad-mouthing the navy through an accusation raised, purportedly by White, of ‘sadism’ on board HMAS Sydney. Okay, here we had a 16 year-old being questioned by a man experienced in both the navy and the law and Rapke lines White up, flooring him in the 8th Round with a question about the meaning of sadism – not in its popular usage but its dictionary definition. Understandably, White struggles and Rapke almost taunts the young man, saying, not in as many words but in effect: ’You used a word you don’t know the meaning of  to blacken to reputation of the entire RAN.’ As I’ve said, this isn’t a precise reading of Rapke but it is fucking close.

Whatever else happens from now on, it is to be hoped that people aren’t subjected to cross-examination of the kind I’ve decribed above. I’d also like to remind the relevant powers-that-be that, in some of us, they are not dealing with children and young people any more. Some of us, at least, have grown up.

I’ll be working through  relevant detail from Volume One in the ensuing weeks.






Monday, October 15, 2012


I’m back. The more discerning among my handful of followers will probably have noticed this as soon as I began to write. Anyway…I’ll be dealing with the somewhat under-publicised release, a few months ago, of the DLAPiper Review Of, ‘Allegations of Sexual and other Abuse in Defence’. There are 1500+ pages to this document and I doubt that anyone has read all of them; I’ve perused a couple of hundred, including some of the appendices. One or two of these legal/literary afterthoughts merit some attention. The first of these is Appendix 15: LEGOLINGO –The Cadet’s Language. This vile document reveals the level of intellect and emotional maturity of our nation’s current and future military leaders. I won’t dwell on it because that would be a little like turning your car around on the highway to watch emergency personnel dealing with a fatal road accident…and take photos.

Second among the appendices I want to draw to your attention, is below: 
And so the redaction continues over several pages, blocking out the whole of Defence’s response. Does this look familiar to those of you who’ve read my piece on the events of 1971 – the excerpts from transcriptions of The Rapke Inquiry in particular? Only, this time we’re left entirely in the dark. You can read the transcript of the ABC’s programme on their 4 Corners website.

 As of the 10th of this month, due to the efforts of South Australian senator, Nick Xenophon, there’s to be an inquiry into the DLAPiper Review. A source trusted by me has described Piper as ‘a legal arm of Defence’. Apparently, several millions of dollars were paid to conduct the Review. Several hundred complainants have been left in the dark regarding their issues, with only generalised statements – not much more than hints -  being included in Stage One of the Review’s findings and broadcast publicly. Remember that a number of these complainants don’t have the comfort and support offered by family and friends. Some of these individuals have suffered, and go on suffering, as a direct result of their experiences in the various arms of the military. Some suffer to the extent that they’ve never been able to form lasting relationships or to hold down jobs; their capacity to trust has been effectively destroyed. Many have turned to hard drugs or the booze to ease the pain of isolation and alienation, to escape memories of what happened to them or to cope with semi-continuous anguish. What’s happening to them right now, today, isn’t helping. Personally, I doubt the effectiveness of the counselling services offered by the Dept. Of Defence, not because of what they have to offer professionally but because many people who need help don’t trust help from such a source.

DLAPiper’s Review did use Adams’ PIAMA 29 and the Rapke Inquiry transcriptions. I’ve already made my feelings on those documents clear. I don’t know whether the Review referred to any ex-JRs websites; I see none listed in the Review appendices however. If anyone out there has anything to say about their own treatment, or the treatment of other people that you feel might help restore balance to the image of  JRs life, email Senator Xenophon: senator.xenophon@aph.gov.au or Barry Heffernan of the Sth Australian branch of the Vietnam Veterans Welfare Assoc.: bhe60800@bigpond.net.au. Otherwise, contact the 7.30 Report.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Adios amigos...Adios!

I’m going to leave the topic of HMAS Leeuwin and the junior recruit training scheme alone now, except to make the following statements:

The Rapke Inquiry of 1971 was an investigation of the navy by the navy. The relevant federal minister of the time was a former naval officer and so, also, was Rapke himself.

What I want to describe are several incidents, the nature of which appear to have been entirely overlooked by Justice Rapke.

Those of you who’ve read my satirical look at JRTE, would be aware of the nutty petty officer’s assault on a lone JR with a rifle. To begin with, I have no idea what they were doing alone on the bullring. It could have been that the unfortunate junior recruit was the only one on punishment that day. That seems unlikely but can’t be entirely ruled out. It is also possible that PO Corkhill had singled out, as seems to have been his habit, this kid for special attention. Carrying rifles at the high port, over the head, was a borderline area in regulations stating that men under punishment could be given extra drill. On an occasion in December ‘63 when the Commodore was watching some early boxing bouts in the drill hall - he must have taken as look over his shoulder and seen the duty PO running kids up and down with rifles over their heads - ordered the rifles down. Clearly he didn’t go along with that practice either. There isn’t anything about throwing rifles at junior ratings in the QRs. I witnessed the incident, my attention was drawn to it by Corkhill shouting as I ran across the SE corner of the bullring on my way back from the cross-country. Neither he nor the kid he was picking on, saw me. Was this an incidence of, to quote PIAMA 29: p87, an immature, na├»ve or disorganised boy being set on the right track? No, it was much more a case of an unstable adult acting out his feelings on a near-helpless target.

Secondly, on an occasion where both intakes, 7th and 8th, were sent on the cross country run to the Bicton Baths, a caged pool on the Swan, and back, a small number of JR2s hid in bushes to avoid running the whole distance. They were detected and pointed out to all the boys on the bullring as being the reason we were to run the whole course again. Entirely predictably, some took personal exception to this and took it out, physically, on smaller, weaker boys. Jock McGregor, a heavyweight boxer, slapped one of the JR2s around on this occasion. Here, the senior man, LPTI Roesler, all but administered the illegal punishment himself.

The disparity of power between a petty officer, even a leading seaman, and a junior recruit, within the regulations, was enormous. If that power was used secretively, as in the case of Corkhill, or cunningly, vicariously, as with Roesler, one can only puzzle over the motives of these grown men.

There’s my own situation, and that of Bill Smith, and there can be little doubt the scene wasn’t repeated in other classes, other divisions, where it was suggested from above that certain individuals got scrubbed. In my own instance and Bill’s, older boys were used to carry out the mistreatment. Again, it’s peculiar how adults could behave in that way. On the one hand, unable to directly confront people so junior, yet, on the other hand, quite ready to issue covert instructions of that nature. Oh we wouldn’t want to question an individual’s personal hygiene but it’s quite all right to scrub his back till it bleeds and degrade him pretty much as we please...They’re both poms…Y’know what poms’re like…

On the radio news today, 27/12/11, there’s talk of recruiting into the RAN from the UK. This must be seen as a desperate measure on the part of those responsible for navy staffing. Before long, people, we’ll be seeing attempts to re-introduce junior recruit training or some version thereof. I’ll be watching developments on both those fronts with extra-ordinary interest. Otherwise, this is pretty well it from The Destitute Institute for the foreseeable future. I’ve both a house and family that have been somewhat neglected of late and writing some of what I have - along with an ongoing struggle to be compensated for my treatment by the RAN – hasn’t been without its emotional toll. Thanks to you who’ve read my blog and shown a continuing interest these past couple of years. Good luck with ‘012 and please feel free t’get pissed or eat a lot of chocolate. I’ll be coming back but I don’t know when. If you want to bring something up with me, email me at wahe@dodo.com.au, but be aware I’ve been insulted by experts and called names I had to look up in the dictionary. If there is a fact you feel needs correction, I’ll be glad to make room for you at a later date. To quote The Lone Ranger:’Adios amigos Adios!’

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Below, I’ve included a letter to the 6/7th Intakes of Junior Recruits at HMAS Leeuwin (1963-4) website from Jim Hammond, a man who spent twelve years in the RAN; a man, I feel, of considerable courage.

Letter to the Editor
The recent article in the newsletter regarding bastardisation at Leeuwin has prompted me to write in the hope that some positive discussion on the subject may now be generated. The fact that the three Bs: Bullying, Bastardisation and Bashings can lead to debilitating illness in victims later in life should raise some questions in the minds of the perpetrators and their victims.
Do the bullies of Leeuwin now show some remorse over their actions? Or do they brush it off by using the familiar excuses such as:
It was just a bit of fun, or
It didn’t happen, or
It was all part of making a man out of the victims, or
Boys will be boys, or even
Those weak or different victims deserved it!
There is no excuse for such abhorrent behaviour. It has taken Governments too many years to make bullying in the workforce illegal. But it is now. Sure, it wasn’t illegal in 1963, but it was definitely wrong! Any caring, compassionate and intelligent person, even in those days, would not participate in the activities of the few bullies in our midst.
A scan of the mailing list of this newsletter identifies some well known bullies of JRTE. Have they changed? Have they passed on the bullying trait to their children who now carry on the tradition in the schoolyards and workplaces?
Why, you ask, am I raising such an unpleasant issue 42 years later? Because I suffer Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a result of bullying, bastardisation and bashings at Leeuwin. Does that still make me weak or different? In the eyes of some of you, probably yes.
Talking about one’s mental illness is part of the healing process, and I hope that your feedback or comments may contribute to my healing.
It would be great to see your comments in the newsletter for all to read. However, if you wish to keep your comments quiet, feel free to contact me by email at jimhammond36@hotmail.com

.




Here’s the headline from the May 14, 1971 edition of Navy News. Connolly is the guilty party. And in the box below the headline, as though to shame JR Connolly further, we’re told that he and his mother had requested that he be discharged. This because four blokes had beaten the shit out of him for daring to assume ‘rights’ such as they themselves did; rights that violated naval regulations. And with utterly predictable armed service sense of right and wrong, Connolly and his assailants received the same punishment.


Monday, August 1, 2011

And now...

Things, obviously, are heating up. From out there in the world, well, Canberra and Melbourne, an invitation has been made, inviting we victims of abuse in the military to submit our allegations to a review committee. That, as they say, is better than fuck all; an improvement on living with the sense of abuse, degradation, profound humiliation and the fear which has never entirely left us, in silence. Will perpetrators be identified? If so, what will they have to say in defence of their actions? I’m not into predicting the future. I have read extracts from the Rapke Inquiry, 1971, into events at HMAS Leeuwin, JRTE and on HMAS Sydney and that is a pathetic document to say the least; page after page of testimony(?) on jumping the scran line (meal queue) and biting cigarettes from juniors. Don’t go looking for names because they’ve all been expunged along with any other identifying material, leaving some pages of the transcription with only a line or two left readable. Oh, and there’s a good deal of whinging about conditions on the, at the time troop carrier, Sydney, but we won’t go into that.



That above is a sample page, containing a handwritten statement in which the only name not expunged is that of the original subject of this inquiry, JR (Junior Recruit) Connolly, remains. (Connolly’s mother had expressed concern to naval authorities through a Melbourne radio station over her son’s treatment at Leeuwin.) At the top of the page, an unknown writer states that Shane had ‘…acquired a name around the depot as a mouth…’ Whom ever wrote the report could safely, anonymously, criticise Connolly.

In the typewritten page below, again, the only name not expunged is that of JR Shane Connolly.



In both documents and in other material from the Inquiry, there’s a build toward Shane Connolly as the troublemaker since he had started a fight on the platform at Spencer Street Station on the day the group was leaving by train for WA, with some other JR who had directed a remark at one or more of Connolly’s sisters. In any event, he was ganged up on and bashed by four or five senior boys quite soon after arriving at Leeuwin.

It’s a bit of a sad tale and one we’ll very likely never know the whole truth of, but in just these two examples, we can see how selective questioning, transcription, and even copying can create a particular image for history.

Already, we’ve had a statement from a senior member of the RSL, stating that bastardisation is necessary to toughen people up for battle. What a load of shit! They’re going to have to do better than that, but, don’t lose sight of the fact that it may well be suggested that you put yourself in the way of the treatment you received…

In the Gun Plot website, some of you may have seen, or even taken part in, the Discussion Forums. One particular contributor stated categorically that that we who had spoken up about abuse at some stage of our time in the RAN were clearly people who had spent all of our superannuation and were desperately trying to build cases for compensation. Personally, I don’t have, nor did I ever have, any superannuation. My working life after the RAN, was a hotchpotch of casual work, brief periods of permanent employment and long periods of unemployment and destitution. Pretty well emotionally fucked by my experience at Leeuwin as a junior recruit which I’ve described elsewhere in this blog, I had problems, significant problems, in trusting people. However, I’m not about to fall into making excuses for myself. Let the perpetrators do that. They’re the ones who committed a variety of crimes on my person. They were able to pursue long careers in the services.

I don’t know, nor would I care to predict, what lies ahead for those of us who’re taking part in the government’s survey and what might stem from that. It’s very likely that some of us will be traumatised all over again. I hope we can draw strength through knowing that, this time, we’re not alone and that’s no small thing. Believe me, when I was stuck on a train on my own back to the East, to Sydney where I had no home beyond the single room my father rented – he had no room for me anyway – I was to experience loneliness that would go on for months, years.