Tagged: Timor-Leste

Our Anzac Day Swim Set

On Anzac Day (or thereabouts) I usually use an Anzac theme and tell some stories between the sets. This year I used a selection of those who served as patrons of each set, so here it is, mind the step:

5*600s on Anzac Day

1. PO Ron Middleton, VC RAAF: 150fs /10R + 3*50 as fs, bk, fs /5R + 150 drill-DPS-bk /2:45 + 3*50 as fs, bk, build /60

2. Lt Col Vivian Statham (nee Bullwinkel), AO MBE AANS: 4*(2*50 (25fly+25fs)/60 + 50bk/70)

3. Ord Seaman Teddy Sheean, VC RAN: 3*(100IM/2:00 + 2*50 as Build & FE /60)

4. Capt Reg Saunders, MBE 3RAR: 4*(50 sprint/70 + 100 aerobic fs/1:45)

5. Cpl Cameron Baird, VC MG 2 Cdo Regt: 4*100s/2:00 as 75fs+25bk; 4*50s/50, 55, 60, n/t 

You may not understand the swimming short-hand, but it is more important to understand the service of the patrons, so here are my notes foreach of them:

Ron Middleton, VC (AWM 100641)

PO Ron Middleton, VC RAAF.  He was awarded the VC while piloting a Stirling bomber over Turin, Italy in 1942. His aircraft was hit by heavy anti-aircraft fire over the target and he lost consciousness briefly with numerous serious wounds to his limbs, body and face. After dropping their bombs he was determined to return his crew home to England but they suffered more flak damage over France. He ordered his crew to bail out on reaching the English coast and five did so successfully. He turned back over the Channel and ordered his front gunner and flight engineer to bail out, but they did not survive in the water overnight. He soon crashed into the Channel and his body was washed ashore in Feb 1943.

Vivian Bullwinkel (AWM P03960.001)

Lt Col Vivian Bullwinkel, AO MBE AANS. Served as a nurse with the 2/13th AGH, Singapore, until defence of the island ended and she escaped on the SS Vyner Brooke. The ship was sunk by Japanese aircraft on 14 Feb 1941 and she made it ashore to Bangka Island with 21 other nurses, soon surrendering with others to the Japanese who killed the men and ordered the nurses to wade into the sea (probably after being sexually assaulted) before machine gunning them from behind. She was hit and feigned death until the Japanese soldiers left. She hid for 12 days with a British soldier who was also wounded (and later died of his wounds), before being captured and then spending 3.5 years in captivity as a PoW of the Japanese.

Teddy Sheean, VC (AWM ART28160)

Ordinary Seaman Teddy Sheean, VC RAN. He served on the corvette HMAS Armidale, carrying out escort duties off the Australian and PNG coasts. On 1 December 1942 in waters off Timor the Armidale came under severe attack from Japanese aircraft with torpedoes hitting its port side and engineering spaces. After a bomb hit aft, the order was given to abandon ship. Survivors leapt into the sea and were machine gunned  by Japanese aircraft. 18 year old Teddy helped to free a life raft then scrambled back to his Oerlikon anti-aircraft gun on the sinking ship. Although wounded in the chest and back he strapped himself to his gun and shot down one bomber and kept others away from his comrades, still firing as the Armidale sank. Only 49 of 149in the ship’s crew survived the sinking. He was awarded only a MID and had a Collins Class sub named for him in 1999, but in 2020 after a sustained campaign to have his bravery and sacrifice recognised, an expert panel recommended he be considered for a VC, which was posthumously awarded in December. This was a first for the RAN.

Lt Reg Saunders congratulates Lt Tom Derrick, VC DCM following their graduation as officers in 1944 (AWM 083166)

Capt Reg Saunders, MBE 3RAR. Reg was the first Aboriginal Australian to be made a commissioned officer in the Army. He enlisted in 1940 and served in North Africa and then the ill-fated Greek and Crete campaigns, eventually evading capture on Crete for 11 months. He was evacuated to Australia in 1942 and re-joined his battalion, fighting in the 6th Division in New Guinea as a Sergeant until recommended for officer training in mid-1944. He served in NG as a platoon commander in the Aitape-Weiwak campaign. He left the Army in October 1945, but when the Korean War started he returned to the Army serving initially as a Lt with 3RAR and later as a Captain Company Commander in the ferocious Kapyong battle (in which 3 RAR was awarded a US Presidential Citation). Reg was recommended for a decoration but turned it down. He was a much-respected soldier and leader and awarded the MBE for his community work in 1971.

Cameron Baird, VC MG (ADF)

Cpl Cameron Baird, VC MG 2 CDO. Originally from Tasmania, Cameron joined the Army in January 2000, serving with 4 Battalion (Commando), later 2 CDO Regt in Timor-Leste and Iraq (twice) until 2004. He re-enlisted in 2006, also with 4 Bn (Cdo). From 2007 he had four deployments to Afghanistan until 2013. He was awarded the Medal of Gallantry (MG) for a search and clearance operation on a Taliban stronghold under heavy fire and with close quarter fighting in 2007 as a LCPL. He was KIA in operations in 2013 and awarded a VC in 2014 for his bravery and self-sacrifice. After a helicopter insertion, Cameron Baird led the silencing of a number of enemy positions under heavy fire. He then assisted another team whose commander had been seriously wounded. With selfless disregard for his own safety, he drew fire from an enemy machine-gun position and his team regained the initiative. Inside the enemy compound he charged their positions three times, drawing fire away from his team, again under heavy fire. His third attempt cost him his life.