Bernard Scanlan - Coming home, Mothers death, court martial

Running time
4 min 36 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


An unfortunate experience there. I hadn't been home for 18 months, and when I came home I was advised then that my mother was in the Mater Hospital, in Brisbane, with cancer, but the doctors had advised her never to tell me because of the situation I was in.

The next day or so, I went straight to Brisbane with my family, and Dr Lars was treating Mum in Brisbane, and he said to me, "I don't want you to leave Australia. You'll only hasten your mother's death." I said, "Well, what's the next move?" He said, "You'll have to apply immediately to get help to help your father on the property."

I went through six months of trying to get it done, through a gentleman at Lismore, who was a sergeant at Lismore, Bede Clarke. He was trying his damnedest to get results for me and nothing happened.

My mother was still in the hospital in Brisbane and, of course, it broke the family up altogether. My sisters were all ... some of them were still at school. I went ack-willy. I didn't go back, and then I went to the local police and told him what I was doing, and he said, "Bern, something I admit we never do, but I'll give you a letter of reference because of your behaviour, and knowing your family so well." Bill Botterill. He was the Sergeant in Alstonville.

I waited at home until either someone of authority notified them that I was absent without leave, and two of the officers came out one night, in a van, and my dad brought them in and sat them down to have a coffee or some veal, and they said to me, "Go and get your gear, mate. No funny business." I said, "No." I had to go to the shed to get my rifle and my gear, my clothing, get dressed up and went off with them. I went to Lismore.

From there we went back to Brisbane the next year. There was four or five that were picked up at the same time. Five had been ack-willy for some time. I had to go for a court-martial then, because of the time, and the officer I had who defended for me, said nothing. He was a very ... he could have told a lot ... helped get me out of the problem, but I got three months then, to go into a training establishment at Beaudesert, I think it was. Somewhere like that. Anyhow, the old officer turned to me, "Bernie, you're leaving here today. You're a good soldier. I don't want to see you again."

Well, bugger me, I only got back to camp and they said to me, "There's no ... " I was getting RTU, return to unit, and they were just in the last thralls of Moratai Island, and they said to me, "There's a message that here that no more reinforcements are to go to ... the battalion's finished. It's all over." I had to wait then, to process of getting discharged. Just the normal.

Came back to Lismore on the train that night, or the next morning, and I walked away from it all. It was a disappointment, though for the ... The family were not concerned about it because they knew the situation that I was in, and the death of my mother ... pending death. The family were just over the moon that I was home.

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