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
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