Geoff Hazel's story

Geoff Hazel was born in 1948 and grew up in and around Army camps in Victoria and New South Wales. In his final schooling was at Granville Boys High School, he was a member of the schools debating and basketball teams. He was also the Senior Under Officer in the school's Army Cadet unit.

On his 17th birthday, Geoff joined the regular Australian Army. After basic military training, he was posted to 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), then based as Woodside, South Australia. A few months later, Geoff met his future wife, Margaret. They were married the following year. Some months later, Geoff was deployed with the battalion for his first tour of duty in South Vietnam.

During his first tour in the Vietnam War, Geoff served in the Tet Offensive 1968 and the Battle of Coral-Balmoral. His battalion was later awarded the Unit Citation for Gallantry for Coral-Balmoral.

In late 1969, Geoff was invited to become a member of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) and he went on to serve in that unit as an adviser to South Vietnamese forces during 1970-71. He proudly wears the 2 citations, USA and South Vietnam, awarded to the unit.

Geoff was sworn into the Australian Capital Territory Police on 11 September 1972.

Between 1972 and 1990, Geoff performed many roles, including operational work, training new personnel, media liaison and operational planning. He also deployed to Darwin in the Northern Territory in the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

In 1979, the ACT Police became a key component in forming the Australian Federal Police (AFP). Geoff was promoted to commissioned rank in 1990.

Geoff's first peacekeeping deployment in 1992 was with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). In Cyprus, Geoff was the Operational Commander for sectors 1 and 2. He also served in the UN Police Humanitarian Officer and Contingent Administrative officer roles. He returned to Australia in 1993.

Geoff's next deployment in 1994 was with the United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ). He became the commander for the 2nd Australian Contingent. In Mozambique, he also served as Chief Regional Investigations Officer. Geoff was awarded the UN Commissioner's Commendation for his services in Mozambique.

In 1999, Geoff was deployed as the UN Civilian Police commander in the district of Ermera, East Timor. The contingent was awarded the Australian Group Bravery Citation in East Timor.

In 2001, Geoff was the senior peacekeeper, all facets, on Malaita Island as part of the International Peace Monitoring Team, Solomon Islands.

Geoff returned to Cyprus in 2003 as the AFP contingent commander and the commander for all UN police on that mission. From here, he accepted an invitation to spend a short period with the Department of Peace Keeping Operations, New York.




When I joined, I mean, it was to Wagga. One of the first things I was asked was, "What Corps do you want?" I said, "Infantry". And the corporal who was a section leader or trainer said, "No. Think of something else. The National servicemen are about to start and they're all going to infantry so we'll need to put things up. And I thought, "Well, no, I want to go to infantry.

So I just did the best I could and towards the end of the course he came and got me and said, "The platoon commander wants to see you". So we're walking over and he said, "Oh, by the way, you've got the best soldiers award for the platoon". And I looked at him and said, "Does that mean I get infantry ?" He said, "That means you get whatever you bloody well want".

So, in actual fact, the bloke came second to me, Greg Mawkes, he also got infantry. So I topped that course and he came second, in the infantry training, he topped the course and I came second. And we both ended up in 3 Battalion.


When we got to 3RAR, and they basically said, "Well, we're putting regulars into support companies". So initially, when I went to signal platoon, and he went to mortar platoon, and then I did two trips back to Ingleburn, to do the training there. And I topped both of them so I actually got promoted to Lance Corporal after 12 months which was almost unheard of in the army in those days.

And then did more courses. We were very rarely in South Australia. We were forever off somewhere. We went to Tasmania for the Hobart fires of 67, flew down there to provide communications because there weren't any communications for the army fire teams that were helping out. Mostly a week, maybe two weeks at the most was at home in the base, and then you're either off on exercise being the enemy.

We had a train trip from Adelaide to Rockhampton, troop train, five days, it took us and we were going up there to be the enemy in the first Barra Winga. And so it was it was good, you were always doing something.

Motivation to fight in Vietnam

At that stage, it was still sort of pro the troops and the war. And there was a genuine belief in the country that if we didn't stop them there, then they keep coming. And also with the other troubles that were happening with Indonesia, with their communist tendencies at the time.

So you thought, right? Yes, it needs to be done. It was one of those things that needs to be done. So yeah, I had no problem that, yes, that's what needs to be done. So I want to be one of the ones that goes and does it.

The advance party

If we go back to the start of the year, in 67, I went and saw my platoon commander, the original signals, regimental signals, officer, and I said, "Can I put in for a particular set of leave dates this year?" He said, "What for?" I said, "Because I want to get married". "Ah, right. Go down and talk with the company clerk, and he will run through the program of where we're going to be."

We looked down, we were aiming for the 12th of December, our intentions were. But on the program on the 12th of December, we're going to be on an exercise somewhere. And there was only one two-week period in that whole year, when we were going to be in Adelaide. So righto, in the middle of that, that's when we'll get married. Put in, got the leave approved.

As it turned out, we were on our what became our last exercise in October in South Australia when listening to the radio one morning they said, "Oh, 3 Battalion is going to Vietnam in December". And even the CEO, because I was his radio operator, he did not know. So he made a few phone calls and then he left and went to Canberra to find out what the hell was going on. And it'd been announced in parliament the night before. So we actually, I went out on the advance party because I was the CO's sig, he was on that party and we flew out on the 10th of December. the boat sailed, the Sydney, sailed on the 11th from Adelaide.

So the advance party we were forewarned, right, "When you get there, you'll have two days inside another units base before we move you out on your own". We landed, we were put into trucks and we're driving through Nui Dat and all of a sudden we're driving through barbed wire and out into the open. Another kilometre and a half down the road we stopped there's these partially constructed huts. And this is your base. "Where's the other unit we're supposed to be sharing with for a while?"

That was it. The hundred of us there, this was going to be the battalion base. And the area we just crossed through later on would become where the armoured corps moved the tanks into. But yeah, so it was an interesting first few days. I mean, we had to put our own patrols out to guard the structures that were there and the engineering equipment that was being left overnight.

And the first night I think we had at least three stand tos. Probably one of them was a genuine probe to see what was there and the other two were shooting at shadows. And I'd say there was about five days, five nights when that happen every night, one or two and most of the time, it was probably shadows and we were jumping because we were inexperienced. I'd say the whole battalion only had to be lucky to have 5% who experienced battle at the time. [How big was the advance party] 100, nearly 10%, a bit over 10% of the battalion.

There was people from every company. So you had people that were responsible to set up their own areas and look after it so that when their troops moved in, the rest of moved in, they could all move in and then you'd have people who knew what was going on, where, why and how.

A typical day

The typical day, I mean we even had full stand tos inside Nui Dat initially but that was only for the first couple of days and then it was just the perimeter you used to stand to. But think it was day four after the battalion arrived, we were out on our first battalion sized operation. It was a settling in operation that every battalion did. It was an area where they were known to be few people.

And so we had our first four days, and we were out there and into it and then back and from there there were a lot of company sized operations. Sometimes battalion headquarters went along sometimes it didn't. But basically, very rarely, were we, I think I could count on one hand, the number of times we're in base more than four days in a row. There was once later on in the year we were the only battalion I think that did not get the six, the individuals didn't get the six days rest in country breaks.

You got your R&R. But there was also supposed to be a six-day rest and where you went down to Vung Tau to the rest centre there. We just never got that. Jim Shelton, who was the CEO, brilliant CEO, follow him anyway, at one stage, he told headquarters that he was keeping the battalion in base for eight days. And he would send all of his companies down for two days at a time to Vung Tau and split the support company guys up amongst them they weren't with the companies they were normally working with. So he was excellent but that was the only time the battalion actually took eight days and said, "We're not we're not going out shooting people".

First patrol

At one stage there the companies were out, battalion headquarters were in, and they said, "Oh, well", the new company clerk for A company has just been promoted to Corporal, "We'd like you to take him out on a taop patrol", tactical area of responsibility. We put out about six a night, four to six men, your main job was just observation and report back so that nothing could sneak in. "He wants you to take him out and show him how to run a patrol". Okay, I've never done one. Yep, well, I' been a corporal at that stage, I think for whole of five or six weeks. So I'm just a little bit senior to him.

So I went down. Yep, we can do this, got the place where they wanted us to go, went down, met the patrol, there was him, there was two guys that have been there from the start with us. No, one had come over from one of the other battalions for some reason, I don't know why, I think he'd been in hospital and came to us, one that been from the start, and two that had just arrived, they were going to replace some of the national service intake that was going home.

We went out, got out to a spot where I thought that this would make a nice spot. We got a bit old paddy bund we can get behind for a bit of protection if we need it. Right in a corner, solid stone grave behind us. And so I did the resection and all that, then we moved on five or 600 metres, sat down, cooked our dinner, put up a little hoochie, waved goodbye to the locals as they headed out of the paddy fields and went back to the village. And as soon as it was dark and they were all gone, went straight back to where we were supposed to be.

And at 10 past nine we had roster, somebody was watching all the time. 10 past nine, the bloke from A Company woke me up and he said, "We've got people out there". So we just sat there and then there was definitely sounds right near us. And we could sort of see stuff and, righto, called in elimination from the artillery. And I asked, "Where's it supposed to go off?" He said, "Well, if you're where you say you are it'll be right over the top of your head." And it was. And with that, started the fight.

This is just the six of us and God knows how many of them. we were exchanging stuff, not a lot, because they never tried to attack, just kept our heads down and we made sure they didn't come any closer. And then at one stage and that was going on until, it was after two o'clock. So we were going for at least four or five hours. And one of the elimination, which they kept over us went way off beam and it went out over these paddy fields and I saw a group there of about forty and they're running, they're leaving.

So I started calling the artillery on to, because I'd set up fire plans and all that. And I remember I was just about to call the last round where I reckon they would have been, and a flare went off straight overhead again. And they weren't leaving. They were extras coming in. And I never forget, it was it was "Right 300. Drop 600. Enemy assault line . Five rounds. Fire for effect". And they did. I kept my eyes above the bund just long enough to see the first round right in amongst them and said, "Right 50. Repeat". And they just landed right in amongst them.

Those artillery boys really did. I mean, we would have gone, there was no way we were going to take that 40 with what we had, when they they'd also started shooting from the other side of us. And then after that it went quiet for a long while, they sent out a helicopter which flew around and shot up, all the ground all around us. And next morning, they said "Well, are you coming down?" and I said, "I'm not moving from here until somebody comes out and tells me there's nothing hiding around me".

It was a little bell flew out and he landed. And I though, "Righto, if he landed, it's safe because they would have shot him". We did a sweep, there'd been 19 spots where there was ammunition around us. So we'd had a fair group. I was always wondering why nobody came out to save us. And when I got back I did a debrief and we got a good debrief, it was Major Stewart, an admin company guy and he said, "Well, we had two companies, one by helicopters one by armoured personnel carrier ready to go but we believe you were being used as bait for a trap for a larger ambush. So we were just sitting there waiting. And yeah, … I was the first corporal to command a unit in 3 Battalion…It was just before the Tet Offensive.

Bayonet charge

So this is all in the 68. Sixty-seven we were basically waiting for the battalion to arrive and we did that first little battalion sized operation. The Tet Offensive, well, at that stage, well, it was supposed to be a truce for four days. 2 Battalion and 7 Battalion were both somewhere in Bien Hoa. Charlie company 3RAR was the fire support base protection for 2 Battalion. Delta Company was out somewhere in the west of the province by themselves. Bravo, I'm not sure where they were, but they were not in base.

Alpha Company 3RAR was the only infantry company in Nui Dat when the Tet Offensive hit and they were obviously the ready reaction company. The call for that was, the company was to go, well, to Baria to defend the province headquarters, the South Vietnamese province headquarters in Baria, being the capital of the province. There was six APCs, so not enough to take a full company. So we loaded up, and at that stage I was lent to them as an extra radio operator because there was a lot going on and the boss figured he wasn't going anywhere.

He was sitting in a command post with radio operators all around him. Actually, none was an extra because the radio operator that was there was due to go home five days later, he was one of the national servicemen so I was lent to them so that he could come out and not go walking into something when he's only got five days to go. Horrie Howard was company commander and as we're traveling down the highway in these APCs we got about 400 metres from the start of the town and he said, "Stop everybody out of the APCs".

Now, he said that because while we were in the APC, the second lieutenant from the Armoured Corps was in command, the minute we got out of the APCs, Horrie Howard was in command. Turned out to be one of the best moves ever made. We hadn't gone 60 metres and the first three APCs were hit by our RPGs. The town had already been captured by D445 VC Battalion. But probably the advantage we had, because what, there was 60 of us, was that they'd already captured it and were spread out throughout the town.

So we just progressively over the next three and a half days took it back. There was one stage where, and I was still carrying the radio then, an American voice came over and asking If there was anything they could do to help us and, "Who the hell are you?". He said, "Look up". And there were a pair of phantoms sitting up there. "Righto, Yes, I'll ask the boss." They said, "The picture theatre there. There's a bunch of them. We don't know how many, but there's just too many for us".. So they just came in and put a few in. Well, the first one they missed, went straight over the top and landed in what was the laundry where they did all the Task Force greens.

So there were greens everywhere for a while. Then they hit it with rockets. and that just finished it. Peter Fraser from two platoon and there were 18 of us, I was down there with him, we were on the street and all of a sudden there were women and kids being pushed directly towards us with Charlie right behind them. And Peter got known as Goldilocks, he was about six foot four and he had the real blond hair.

He jumped up and it looked like it was straight out of the movies, "Fix bayonets. Follow me". Okay, so everybody just fixed bayonets, all 18 of us and went through. Yeah. They couldn't shoot because what they wanted us to do was shoot the civilians so they got a"


in Baria there was. I mean, in actual fact, when we went in, when we got into the centre of town on that, when we're trying to retake it, there was a number of them were hanging from lampposts. They had been the ones that have been running shops and working with the Australians. But even later on when, once they were out, that we still had reasonable relationship.

I felt safe walking around Baria, in the normal part of the time. I mean, I was there a second tour with a training team, And yeah, walk around all by myself with just a 45 on the hip and I felt completely safe. [The orphanage was there too?]. Yeah. It was, it was out of town, yeah. Civil affairs were doing the main stuff. … The kids would all be there trying to get cigarettes, lollies, whatever.

And they would help fill the sandbags because in the early days, every time you're in camp, you're out filling sandbags to put in more and more protection around your tents and your bunkers and all that. So you didn't come back and sit down and do nothing. You came back and you worked.


When we came back in, because remember there was only six of us. A: I was happy, "Hey, I'm alive" B: "I think I did a damn good job". Then we sat down for breakfast and I couldn't cut the eggs. because my hands were shaking. Then I suppose that and then Baria, not long after that, It turned around and you had this sense of, you just couldn't be touched. You really were going to just stroll through this. We were supermen.

But yeah, the first part, I mean, there was always that thought before you go into the first one, "Will I or will I not?" And I don't think we had any in the battalion that didn't perform. I mean, there was one platoon in Charlie Company who actually in the whole 12 months never fired a shot in anger and never had a shot fired at them, they just happened to be in the wrong places at the wrong, well, as we were saying later, the right place all the time. And it wasn't because they were trying to hide, it was just they weren't there hewn it happened.


The engineers built wooden buildings. There was one in the mess hall and the bar in each company area. The rest was 16 by 16 tents that we erected ourselves and then you built sandbag walls around them, timber floors. The roads weren't too bad. Obviously they weren't sealed but the engineers kept them graded and that, I mean the engineers in the setup did a lot of work with their equipment, digging the holes for the bunkers and helping put up all the barbed wire around the whole place.

They did a hell of a lot of the work. But basically each company had two buildings and 16 by 16 tents to live in. There was a rule then from the brigade commander or the Task Force Commander, two cans per man per day only while you were in base. In A Company the company Sergeant Major had a pit dug out the back of the bar so that we could throw empties in there because the Brigadier was known to turn up and have the garbage bins at the base emptied and the number of cans counted.

That one particular brigadier, when he left there wasn't a problem … We had our movie screen, outdoor movie theatre, you brought your own chair, your own raincoat, your own six pack, and rifle and ammunition when you went to the movies. I mean, one of the early ones we saw was To Sir With Love and in that there was not one of those soldiers, obviously we'd been in combat by then, a few who left until that screen went blank. For some reason it just resonated with everybody.

So they were on every night and I got to see one show. That was one of the USO type shows came in. That was down near the Luscombe field, which was in the main task force area, they never came out, actually, to the battalion areas. They had a stage in the amphitheatre type thing set up there. But yeah, only once when I was in was there a show on. I think they probably came in about once every month but very rarely were we in base to do it.

Coral Balmoral

I was pulled out of the operation before the one that became Coral Balmoral because A company was staying in base as the defensive unit which happened quite often, they rotated through. And the sig from B Company was actually going on R&R. So I went in and joined B Company, as their sig with, Bert Irwin was the major. We've done about 12 days, I think, in another area, and then we were picked up by helicopters. And we were being flown to be the first company on the ground at Coral, to set the security so everybody else could fly in.

Flying around, we were flying around for an extra hour and a half and we watched a battle on the ground between an American armoured unit and obviously, the VC of some sort. And we ended up landing, being told to land about 1500 metres away from where the original site was supposed to be. So we did, but then the helicopters were almost out of fuel. They had to go back so everything was delayed on that day. And that's why Coral on that first night was definitely not ready to be attacked. And we stayed there, the rest of 3 Battalion flew in and moved out. A staff of 1 Battalion flew in and moved out.

The first lot of guns were moved in. And then finally the final company of 1 Battalion moved in. And it would have been about 5.30 in the afternoon. And they were to take over from us as defence and we were to move out, we only got 700 metres before we had to set up. And we watched the attack that night on Coral because, and there was damn, nothing we could do. They attacked from one side where no infantry company was still not far away. We didn't, I mean, because we were on a different radio frequency. We didn't know everything that was going on but we just knew it was one hell of a fight.

And the next morning, we were told to move and move fast. And we were in a land cleared area as they called it, they'd been through with the dozers and the chains between them and all the trees were just lying on the ground and it was stinking hot and you're climbing over these trees. We're moving far faster than I think we should have. We had a firefight probably 10, 10 30 spotted a group that was obviously not us and then we kept moving. By the end of the day, towards the end of the day, I think I was the last one to go, he'd lost 11 people with heat exhaustion because you're just pushing in that particular environment way too hard.

And it was always one of the machine gunners or one of the radio operators because they were carrying extra equipment. They had extra weight to the what the normal soldier has. So yeah, there were 10 gone and then they were waiting for a helicopter to take one out and all of a sudden I didn't know where I was. And when I woke up, I was in an American hospital and I woke up and some bloke was saying "Scalpel". And I said, "I'm awake". He said "It's all right. We've put in local anaesthetic".

I had two drips in the arm just with heatstroke. So that was three days in there, I was the only Australian that got there, there was 25th Evac, the others have been picked up by the RAAF and were taken to Vung Tau. So I ended up in the officers' ward being very well looked after, thank you very much and I almost had my purple heart. Somebody was coming in pinning them on. And just before he got to meet the CEO turned up, just to check to see how I was, "What are you doing? No, Australians don't get those things".

Well, but then, once I got over that, that was when Coral was, sorry, Balmoral was being set up and A Company, the whole battalion, I think that was the only time in Balmoral where we had close to the full Battalion on the ground. Every other time you always had people you had to leave people back for base security, you people on leave, usually a platoon out or an operation was somewhere between 19 and 21 not 34. So your companies were only about 60 people. For Balmoral they had just about everybody out there that could. Anybody that was fit and healthy was out there. So I was out of hospital and was out there with A Company.


The task force had 25 killed overall. Most of them were from the artillery on 1 Battalion in the initial attack. The actual main attack on Balmoral, all we had were wounds. I mean, our bunkers were brilliant. I mean, the engineers, American engineers come in and helped build them. The defensive position was really well done, although the one thing we all feared was that they would come through the jungle.

And on three sides, you had jungle right up to the wire. On the fourth side It was an open field. They came across the open field, shoulder to shoulder in waves. Just turn around and said, "Righto". The movie Gallipoli. I've been there, except I was sitting where the Turks were. And they just kept coming?

Enemy bunker systems

The last major operation we had, which was once again a two part one, we'd been out doing a 12 day, that was two weeks and we'd moved from there to the new one which was right up in the northwest of the actual province in the May Tao mountains. We were there more for reconnaissance, which was what the battalions were used for a lot. In that 12-month period, the Americans would send an Australian battalion in to find, they know there's somebody there, you go and find them and once we found them, the main part of them, they we will back out and they would send in a brigade or whatever.

But once again we were there to find something. They knew something was there but didn't know where or what. And we've done a bit, we actually come across, well, going down one, found a slit trench, just big enough for two men no more, no overhead cover nothing there, nothing on 100 metres either side. So, righto, we kept going and all of a sudden we had bunkers on either side of us. Right, that stopped the company, and we were actually walking down between a row of bunkers that were 1500 metres long and it was 300 metres across the end.

We got a fight because there were some of them in the centre, a base protection type group, which didn't take much. I mean, they weren't enough to withstand an Australian company. But that was a huge complex and it hadn't been long before when it was occupied. So righto, we kept going and then we stopped. We set up a base and sent out a patrol, 2 Platoon again, went out to ambush a track junction. Set it up. Somebody came wandering down and they sprung the ambush and all of a sudden all hell broke loose.

That junction was right on the edge of another big base. Horrie Howard sent another platoon down on either end, so we had the whole company in line and fortunately the helicopters were in and out giving us cover enough to withdraw. And it was obviously, as we found out later, it was 275 Regiment, which had been the one that had been messed up, like a mess in Long Tan and it was now fully reformed and getting ready to go back into battle. We had to, there was no way we had the numbers and they just couldn't get extras in so we just had to back off. We'd just been resupplied with our food so that was just stuck in the pit. Grenades with the pin pulled out hidden in it. We went to D company, then the next day we went out, were lifted out.

AATTV ambush

Early 1970, called down to the adjutant's office and she said, "Oh, I've got something. Here's your promotion to Sergeant". I thought, "Well, they did come true". And she said, "But before you do it,. there's a request that you go to the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, as a corporal". And I just signed it. There was no way you weren't going to take that job. They were already renowned throughout the army. Why they picked [me] Well, apparently, because it was training. I mean, they looked at, you needed to have good combat experience and you needed training.

And so there I was off and did the training courses and all that sort of stuff and next thing, you know, we flew into Saigon and shipped off to do the three-week American course, which really was almost a waste of time because all they were doing was repeating stuff. I know we spent one day towards the end, just down from the training base there was a helicopter company base and we got to know them and got on with them and the bar was open 24 hours a day.

A couple of classes, there were nine of us and for most of the classes we were split into two groups. They only thought that we had two people from Australia in each class because we used to take it in turns of being there and not being there and we were sitting there at the bar this day and they said ,"Oh look, are you guys doing anything tomorrow?" and said, "We're part of a big insertion into Cambodia. Do you want to come along and fly as door gunners?" Try and stop us. So we were there early next morning.

First thing when we got allocated, the first thing we did was clean our guns because the Americans aren't all that good at that maintenance. And we did three flights into Cambodia went to hot hell's edge every time. And then we came back and the next day I got, well, the senior instructor finally found somebody who found me and called me down. He said, "I can't find your senior officers. I want to talk to all your people" because none of us had turned up. So, came in and sat down. He was not a very happy man.

But yeah. And we were in Phuoc Tuoy province with the Matt team, mobile army training team. Our first job, the one I was on, Matt 11, our first job was, it started as soon we got there, was a little village just on route 52, between Saigon and, it was just outside of Baria and it was to train the PSDF, Popular Self-Defence Force, kids, males under 16, or were over 45, they had World War Two weapons and they were to patrol. We run the pool and the end of the two-week program, theoretically you take them out on a night ambush. And this is little lot told us, "Look if we go just a little bit further up the road here.

Every night Charlie goes across, comes from the sea and goes up into the mountains". "Yeah, righto". . Okay, we got to do it, we'll do it. So we went up, walked past, went straight up the road, I hated that but anyhow, we went straight up the road, turned around, and came back. And we're starting to set up the ambush, I had the M 60 and I trained three of the locals who had the ammunition belts all over them and just after I got in position before everybody else was, all of a sudden, I got a group of about seven walking across, coming up the other side of the road, walking straight at us. Well, there was nothing to do but start shooting.

And the Warrant Officer thought that I was shooting at shadows until the group behind who were doing rear protection started shooting as well at a group back there. And we'd actually split a party that were going from the from the water through into the mountains. So these guys have told us the truth. Charlie crossed there most nights.

So the other funny thing was then they talked to a local popular force platoon and they started putting shit on him because, "Hey, we had a go at Charlie, why haven't you?" So that they came to us and said, "We know where the base is at the bottom of the mountains where they take this stuff". And we looked at it and ‘Oh, that's in Australian Task Force area." So we went up and told them, "We don't go in that area, because we don't go any closer than 500 metres to the border in case we run into South Vietnamese troops and we're shooting them instead" We said, "Right, well can we take our people in and fix it up?" "Yeah, we'll make sure nobody's anywhere near you."

Went back and the platoon was very happy when we went in and took out their little, it wasn't very well manned but it was a base. And then that got the local RF company, Regional Force Company saying, "Well, hang on" and really made it good and actually, the interesting thing about that company, the company number was 445. Same as D455 from way before except it didn't have the D on it. And we just, you just worked with them. And they were they were good company.

They were actually good units and pretty well. We were based then in the company that would provide security for the RF rifle range that was on the side of the mountains and that was right beside Baria. But every night we were at least once out engaged with people that were trying to sneak in and out of Baria. And then from there, we lost Blackhurst in the Long Hais, and I got moved from there down to work with Matt 3, which was working with 302 RF battalion. And we had responsibility then for the Long Hais. And then we moved to the Horseshoe. We still had the Horseshoe and Dat Do and the whole area.

Hospitalised with malaria

I was sitting in one of the bunkers on the perimeter defence during the day, which was always manned in Nui Dat and all of a sudden, I said, "Whoa", whoever came in to relieve me, called up, they got the medics in and tested me and I had malaria. I believe there was a big scream because there was nearly 200 of the battalion came down with malaria from that particular thing.

And they were screaming that we weren't taking our proper pills and all that. But then 1 Battalion went in there to try and follow up and they got 150 cases of malaria. And the malaria that was there was just completely immune to what we were taking. So I was in the American Hospital in Vung, Tau for six days but they said, "Right, you're cured but hang on a little bit". "Yeah, righto" and I'm thinking "There's only 3 days until the boat sails.

If I stay here longer, I don't have to get on the boat." And the day before the boat was due to sail, a doctor came in and said, "Right, you're discharged. Out you go." And no sooner had he left and the RAAF doctor came in and said, "Who's here from 3 Battalion?" And there were three of us. He said, "Right, you're all on the plane in two days' time". "Thank you".

Loss of a platoon

Your team was usually somewhere between four and six and then you, the team would break up, like when we're with the battalion there were seven of us that you would go with, there would only be one or two go with a company. Now there was one time before that when I was with 445 when I went out with one of the PSDF platoons, it was just me and the platoon.

That one, somebody opened up at us and we had a little bit of a, but the platoon disappeared and I had to use, every time you went out you had spots prearranged for a helicopter pick up if there was a problem. And I just had to call it in and fortunately, they actually came in with a couple of gunships as well that kept anything away from me and picked me up and we never saw one member of that platoon again, they just disappeared.

A sense of trepidation

I was in contact two days out of every three on the first tour. And the second tour would be about the same. Yeah. Yeah, some are small some, I mean, there was nothing came the size of the way of Balmoral. But yeah, they were there. I mean, you're in contact. Pretty well. Yeah. You went Bush. And there was something, I read it recently where World War Two the average infantry soldier spent 40 days in a combat area each year.

The average infantry soldier in Vietnam spent 40 days not in a bush danger situation each year. But yeah, you got used to it. I know that the first tour towards the end just before we hit that, there was one spot we only had about two weeks to go. And I'm walking along and for the first time it hit me. "You can get killed here." Up until then. I had no understanding that possibly I could go. But it was "You could get killed here". And talking to others later, it hit everybody about the same time.

Bitterness towards the RSL and media

When I came home the first time, there was only one good Vietnamese and that was the one I had in my sights. Now going back there and living with them working with them and to getting to know them. Yeah, we should have been. They needed that extra support because you can't defend a whole country when somebody can pick off wherever they want to hit. So yeah, I got to know them. and I still see some of them here every now and then. You did not feel good that we were being pulled out not having finished the job.

Probably the worst was, I mean, I had an absolute hatred of Australian media because they played it the wrong way. I mean, the Tet Offensive was a magnificent victory on our part. Probably if you want to compare it to something in World War Two, it's the Battle of the Bulge where a surprise attack has an initial benefit and then it was an absolute defeat. The Tet offensive was exactly the same, but in the media back home all it was portrayed as was a victory for the VC.

Well, no, they didn't win, they got pushed out of everywhere they took and they lost 1000s in that offensive, and in fact, the VC after that virtually ceased to exist. From there on, we were fighting North Vietnamese Regulars, who were very well-trained soldiers, very well trained. Yeah. So yeah, it didn't help the tour and to add a little bit, when I was in Wagga between the tours on Anzac Day, we marched as a unit, the veterans marched in uniform in the Anzac Day Parade in Wagga and then were refused entry into the RSL.

Did not go down very well at all. So, yeah, we were bitter that we weren't recognized, we were never defeated. And yet, they told us we lost the war. Well, sorry, no, we didn't lose the war. You lost the war back here in the Politics and the media.

Working with the Vietnamese

On the second tour, because you went out with Vietnamese companies on operations, now, their ration system was pretty poor. I mean, when they went out all they had was their rice, you got meat when somebody went and shot a deer or something. So you found that a good company, the hunter went out just before dawn and got the deer. And then once you got it you packed up, moved, and then you did your cooking and had breakfast and then you moved on.

A bad company used to go out on dusk, get the deer and then you'd be sitting there where he's been shooting, thinking, "Oh, you've just told everybody, right, here we are". So really the companies were much dependent on the company commanders, you're good company commander, you had a good company. I mean, 445, they were brilliant. Company commander was absolutely spot on.

I was with another one for a brief period of time. And basically there was only a third of the company there any period of time the rest were back on their farms. They used to come in on Pay Day, get paid and give half the money to the company commander and then they go back to the farms. So yeah, there was, you had a lot of issues. But the majority of the people were good, I mean we got to know them, you got to live with them.

And once they got to know you, that was a big thing. You had to get to know them. It was no good standing off and saying, "You've got to do this". That didn't work, I mean as a corporal you're trying to tell a major how to run his company or that. There are ways to do it.

American training

We had a reputation that just was almost unbeatable and by the same token, when their troops went out the bush, I mean, I would never ever go bush their way. But that's the way they were trained, they went out there in their larger groups making noise waiting to be attacked and then they would mass it and really win it whereas I would much rather do it our way, sneak around do the initial attacking and if you needed more call it in but they have their way of dealing and having, on their training course, you go into a lesson on an M 60, there are two M 60s in the classroom with an assistant instructor at each, there's an instructor out the front and he dictates and the rest sit there and watch.

You do not actually touch the gun. And the funny thing was on that particular lesson, we got there early, because it was our turn to do that lesson and the others were away and we stripped it. And I do mean we stripped this gun down to its bare parts and the instructor came in. “Ohhh….” w So we had a small bet for a certain amount of beer, that we could get it back together again and it was back together again because we knew what we're doing, we'd done it so many times.

And yeah, but he was absolutely amazed that just people who weren't specialist gunners could just strip one of these things completely down and then put it back together again in nothing flat. So, yeah, they would have class of 40 people sitting in there with two weapons, which are handled by assistant instructors, not by the students, and apparently normally back in America, quite often it's a full company sitting there watching what's going on. Different methods, a larger scale, so you've got to sort of fit to the scale.

Cypress/ East Timor


A non-military option

The role was to give the force commander, cause in, or the first tour, the boss, as far as the UN Peacekeepers were concerned, was the force commander. In my case, the particular one with the first one was a Canadian general and he was replaced by an Irish general. So to give the force commander a non-military option for whatever might occur and also to conduct the investigations on behalf of the UN for anything that happened within the buffer zone between the Greeks and the Turks.

There was, let's be honest, the majority of both sides would've been quite happy for reunification. But there was an element on the south and an element on the north, very strong elements. They said, "No, if you put us together, we'll start killing people again." On the south, it was actually pretty well led by the Greek Orthodox Church.

Observing patrol boats

The UN were invited to send people down to the launching of, well actually, no not the UN... Australian police were invited by the Greek Cypriot Police to send people down for the launch of new the patrol boats that they had with the British army officer there, who I got to know, who was in intelligence said, now, sat down with me for half an hour to brief me on what he wanted from what... by observations of these boats.

But when I got there, we're just standing around there, no, hat on or anything. And the Archbishop walked past and shook me hand and said, "Welcome." And I put the beret back on for the ceremony and when he come back, he saw it and he just looked at me and the change in his face was enormous. And he turned and walked right away from me. Would not come near anybody from the UN. But I did get a very good description of the police boats for the British military.

Australian CIVPOL contingents

The contingents then were 20. We had a commander and it was, Harry Bryant was our commander. He had three superintendents and 16 troops. And we, in that stage, looked after sectors one, two and three, and the Swedes were in sector four. So you literally work separately except for major events when you could pull people together to it's just each other, working with the Swedes was good. Very good.

The Swedes

The Swedes were pretty well upfront and all prepared to work. But the interesting thing was I learned from there, and the start of my learning of CIVPOL and the UN more than half of them had never actually been a police officer. They were, because the police in Sweden include the people that sit at the border immigration control at the borders, and that's all they did.

So there were a lot of people within the CIVPOL, some there and later, a lot more, in different other places where they really weren't police, as we know the police. And you start to get the understanding that, you've really got to work hard to figure out how this all works, but they were easy to work with.

We got on well, and yeah, no problems whatsoever… they shaped their own deployment in their own area. But every time we tasked them to come with us, because we had a major event that needed everybody, not a problem. They came, they were prepared, and they worked well without a problem.

Gum trees and wattle trees

The interesting thing when I first arrived, the thing that struck me first about Cyprus was the number of gum trees and wattle trees that were there everywhere you went. Driving from the airport drop to where we were to live was gum trees and wattle trees.

They were introduced by a British governor-general, somewhere in the '30s because he'd been to Australia and he, the trees in Cyprus had all been knocked down years, centuries before. And he said, "I know what'll grow here quickly," and he introduced them from Australia.

Hunting in the buffer zone

There was a big change with the second tour, a lot of change. But probably the first tour, just to concentrate on that a little bit, in that, that was a perfect opportunity for me to learn how the UN works, because you could pick up the diary for any year, proceeding the one you're in, flip through the page, and you'd find what's going to happen tomorrow, because the same things happen.

The severity of them varied, but the two main events that caused this problem were the hunting season, small game and big game. Now big game is rabbit in Cyprus and the two demonstration seasons. Now each of those is about six weeks, so you've got somewhere between 18 and 24 weeks of the year, where there is a lot of problems, and you've just got to meet them.

Some years, it's not too bad, some years the demonstrations get worse. After I left, there were people shot at demonstrations. One of our problems was the hunting season because all the Greeks wanted to go and hunt in the buffer zone. Traditionally, that's where we go every year to hunt. Well, they never used to. But anyhow, because they couldn't go in, they went in. And we ran into one group in the middle of the buffer zone. And I was there with one of our patrol. And I knew the bloke that was leading the hunters. He was one of the senior Cyprus police officers. And one of them fired the shotgun overhead a couple of times.

And that's when the British section that were behind us, came up and stood in front of us, and they decided to go home. But he had with him, the first secretary of the Russian embassy, or it was the Russian embassy then. He was taking him hunting, and he was embarrassed he was being ordered out of the buffer zone. So, that was sort of thing they ran. The demonstrations, sometimes they were violent, yes. But the secret was, if it looks like turning really bad, get behind the barbed wire and shut the gate. It's that simple.

The game-hunting season

There was a three or four-week small game hunting season. That's when they went out and shot birds, tiny little birds. And then the big game was another three or four weeks, about a month after the first one.

The second time I was there, they'd been condensed to a one six-week period for the hunting season, full stop. But there'd been a change and they weren't worried about the buffer zone then because they'd been banned from hunting in the national park, because some of them had been shooting the mouflon, which is sort of a cross goat, mountain goat, but it would become endangered. So now they were in there trying to hunt in there… And weekends, they're a lot more.

Even during the week, when they're normally working though, they were out there hunting. You get two or three groups of four or five with their dogs. But on weekends, across the length of the buffers zone, you could have up to 30 or 40 different groups in there.

North and South

North is Turkish and the south is Greek. The area in between can be as narrow as 11 metres and as wide as 11 kilometres. And basically it's where the troops stopped when the ceasefire was called. Technically, they're still fighting and both sides have got troops along the edge.

The 11 metres is in the centre of Nicosia, what used to be the capital... Well it is the capital city for both sides. And then you've got a road that runs through there, and buildings on one side of Greek, Greek Cypriot buildings on the other side of Turkish Cypriot. And they used to poke bayonets at each other on long poles at different times.


There were three main points. The Ledra Palace crossing point, which is in the centre of Nicosia, a place called the box factory, which used to be an old box factory, and it was now, that stage was a British army base, and that was another major crossing point; and down at the other end in the Swedish little town called Pyla, which was actually inside the buffer zone. And it was a town with both Greek separates and Turkey separates living in it. And that were the three main... And the fourth one was right down on the coast of the Eastern end, Varosha, where you had this, what would've been a magnificent city in its day, the major tourist resort. And the Greeks had evacuated from it back to a point, but the Turks didn't advance.

But it was then said, "No, it can't be touched." And so the patrol through that area, you got the hotels just falling apart. And there was one hotel that was owned by a German company that they got permission to go in every year and renovate, and make sure the building... because they figured they were going to come back at some stage… at Ledra Palace, it was easy, because you had barbed wire leading down, and you had a big fence that you could shut off, a big gate that could be shut off.

So there, if they looked like they're out of hand, you just pull back behind the gate, shut it, and that was it. The box factory... They'd run around you, but you had to be careful, because there mine fields there, plenty of them. But you tend to notice that if they got around you and started running towards the Turks, after a little while, they would slow down and they'd be looking over their shoulders just to say, "Well, when are you going to stop us?" Because the next line was the Turkish army.

And none of them actually wanted to run into the Turkish army. So the ones we had, there were no real problems, because nobody actually tried to get all the way across, which happened a few years later with one of the other groups. But we had a couple of ones where they got a bit nasty at Ledra, and their aim was to try and hurt the UN people. They definitely didn't want to get in amongst the Turks. But second tour the demonstrations would ease a bit.

A changing society

First tour, you would not see underwear on display in any shop of any kind. You walk in any shopping centre, and on the Greek separate side, you would always see a priest walking around, looking, making sure they were following the rules and behaving themselves. You could see the power that the church held over the south.

Second tour, the whole place had changed. You hardly ever saw the priest. There was still plenty of churches there, but you hardly ever saw the priests out in public. Shopping centres were completely different. The behaviour of the youngsters, young ones was different. Interestingly, the population had almost doubled in 10 years.

Now on the north, a lot of that was expat Brits or expat Germans. And they built three universities there, and they were universities for basically the various Muslim countries in the Middle East. That's where this students come. So each university held 20,000 students. Now they just hadn't been there 10 years before.

Backwards and forwards

In the south in Limassol, you had a lot of Russian expats, and in Paphos, a lot of British expats, basically Limassol was a Russian town, and they were there. Well, there was a lot of trouble in Limassol, cars getting blown up, people getting shot now and then. It was the Greek separate mafia and the Russian mafia trying to control the port. Because through that port a lot of ships would come in there, not unload or anything, but would get new paperwork and sail.

There was a lot of... Yeah, a lot of the money coming into Southern Cyprus was ships of convenience or flags of convenience. Offshore banking were located. We met two Aussies that were there. They were the head office of such and such a bank, but I can't remember which one it was now. But they were just there as figureheads to say that the head office was there. They were paid for basically doing not much at all. But they paid a lot less taxes than they paid anywhere else.

The port was well and truly in Greek Cypriot side, nowhere near the buffer zone. What we did have in some areas living in the south, you had pockets of Turkish Cypriots that were still there. Same as in the north, there were pockets of Greek Cypriots still living there. So we used to go and visit them weekly, to make sure that they weren't being harassed or whatever.

With the ones in the north, we'd take food up to them from the south. And next thing, you'd find them coming back through and delivering the food, selling it in the markets down south. But they didn't really need it, but it was the thing they wanted to do. The military provided the vehicles, and we always sent people along just to talk with local police and keep it calm if anybody was going to get upset, and to do the checking, to make sure they were all right, nothing was being done to hurt them.

The one crossing point that was there... Well, at Pyla, they could go backwards and forward. The Greek Cypriots could come into the village of Pyla and go back out. Turkish Cypriots could come in and go back out. Now some of the Turkish Cypriots actually went through because they were being employed, particularly in the peak tourist season, because they were cheap labour.

At Ledra Palace, what could go backwards and forwards were the Armenians. There was an Armenian community mainly in the north, but they travelled backwards and forwards, and both sides allowed it. They just had to check in. That was the first tour.

Face off and cribbing

While I was there, the second tour had all changed. Not only was the place bigger and the roads were tremendously better, because the Turks built a four-lane road, but it was mainly designed to be an airstrip in case they needed it. So when the Greeks saw it, they built one, and then they built more. But the second tour, it had changed. And well, to start with, the general was no longer the boss.

We now had a chief of mission civilian. So all of a sudden, little issues weren't as easy to resolve as they used to be. Like one example, on the first tour, one of the jobs of the military was to make sure no fortifications were moved forward at all, or had extra fortification put on. They could replace what was there, but not add to it. And there was one in the Canadian area where they started to dig a trench, just a slit trench, but it was five feet forward from the line.

So the Canadian battalion centre section up there told them to move it back and they didn't. So all of a sudden, they had a platoon of Greek Cypriot national guard there confronting the Canadians. So the Canadians sent a platoon and gradually built up. So eventually we had a better battalion with a couple of tanks on the Greek Cypriot side and the armour personnel carriers on the UN side facing off each other. But the one thing that was happening at night, all the Greek Cypriot national guard went home, and then came back next morning.

So on one particular night, the general and the battalion command just said, "Put a bulldozer and fill it in," and they did. Came back and they said, "Oh, okay. All over." That was it. Second tour, a similar thing in a slightly different area, but a similar thing. This time, the Turk's trying to move forward, and no you can't confront, because we're now run by a politician or diplomat. We will negotiate.

Well, when I'd left for about five months later, the damn thing was still there and they'd actually moved it forward even further. Now, fortunately, it was in an area where the Greek Cypriots couldn't see, it because it was only up against a UN post. But if the Greek Cypriots had known that they'd moved forward, there would've been a lot of hell raised. But getting a decision out of a politician diplomat was not easy. So things had changed in that respect.

Good relations

We ate out a lot. And you went to the Greek restaurants, you went to Turkish restaurant. There's not much difference between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot. In fact, I heard somebody who said, in fact somebody had done the DNA, and said they are actually closer together than the Turkish Cypriots are to Turks or the Greek Cypriots are to Greeks. Yeah, you went to the restaurants, the restaurants were there.

On the first tour, the Turkish army that was there, the soldiers were never allowed to take their uniform off. So whenever I went north, I'd be doing a lot of saluting when I was in uniform, because they recognized the Australian officers immediately. And we had an excellent reputation with them. And obviously, it goes right back to Gallipoli.

I remember one time I was taking a carton of Victoria beer to our jeweller on the north, who was a Turkish Australian. He'd gone back there and he asked me, because we'd got some imported, and he said, "What can you do?" And I said, "Well, yeah I can sell you one." So I sold him one. But I'm trying to carry a carton of beer and salute the Turkish soldiers all at the same time. But yeah, it was good. We had good relationships everywhere.

The best thing was, the first tour was even better, was giving out in the little villages on both sides. It was great. Second tour, because the whole country, both sides had changed. You had all the students in the north and, the little villages in the south had now become just dormitory rooms, suburbs for the cities, and you didn't get the little villages running like they used to before. It had become sort of just dormitory and people migrating from there to work in the cities each day.

A failed negotiation

The political side on the second tour was something. You had an independent UN group of politicians who were doing the negotiating with both sides, trying to come up with a solution which wasn't happening at all on the first one. It was just sit there, it's rolling along. Nobody's killing each other. So, war hasn't started again, so we are meeting our mission statement.

But second tour, I heard them say... The message came that well, they're flying the Secretary General in, because they've told him that all he's got to do is turn up and both sides will sign the peace agreement and open the borders. And I looked at him and said, "Who said that?" I said, "People are up there in the UN, whatever it is." I said, "It's not going to happen." "Okay, yep. It's going to happen."

So we had the Secretary General flying in. Now, all we had, "He will be arriving at this time on this flight. There will be negotiations. He'll be here four days and he'll be leaving." Nothing else. Plan. Yeah, right. Okay, so we planned the route to get him from the airport to where he was staying. And CYPOL secured that route and cleaned out, did all the bomb checks of everything that was dangerous.

But for the rest of it, we thought, "Well, we don't know where he is going to go. So how's anybody going to know where he is going to go, so we don't have to worry about checking for bombs on routes or anything because we don't know." But the thing is we got his armoured vehicle' it was the number three vehicle for the president of Greek Cypriots. And one of my guys got to be the driver. And he said, "If ever somebody stopped in a hurry in front of us, we were going to hit him," because [00:24:30] that things brakes were bloody awful.

But he came in, and we got them all. Now the first day of the conference, the secretary general drove into the compound with his 17-vehicle convoy. The Turkish Cypriot president, Denktas, drove in with his 17-vehicle convoy. Greek Cypriot president drove in with his 17-vehicle convoy. And the past president from the Greek drove in with his 11 separate convoy.

Now, then they're all going to the chief admissions house for lunch. So I'm sitting down there with a British major and we're trying to figure out how we're going to get these convoys from there and into here, which is a very narrow turnaround; not enough room for five vehicles, never mind 17. And we'd almost come up with an idea. And the young corporal there said, "Excuse me sirs, I wouldn't worry about that." I said, "What?" He says, "Look at the television."

And there was the Turkish Cypriot president and his convoy leaving and going back to north, immediately followed by the Greek Cypriot president heading south. It was over. 40 minutes in of what was supposed to be three days of negotiations. And they both refused to comply or cooperate in way whatsoever, and it was finished.

But I got to meet the Secretary General of the United Nations, and he shook our hands and thanked us. And I got to push a few journalists around, especially the Greek Cypriots thought they ruled the roost there. "No, you're not getting closer to my boss."

Mines in the buffer zone

There was one Australian, a farmer, who went in and drove his tractor, and he hit a mine in his farming field in the buffer zone. Because we were always trying to get farming back into the buffer zones, so we could try and normalise that whole stretch. And it was definitely the patrol track was the dividing line. South of patrol track, the Greeks could farm.

North of the patrol track, the Turks could farm. Turks, first tour, no way. They just did not allow it. The Greeks allowed some, but yeah, this had been all a few years before. And an Australian went in, got him out and brought him back out. There was one UN Land Rover; it was one of our Land Rovers from the earlier times, drove over a mine. Because in fact, when I went there, nobody really knew where they all were.

By the time we got there, everybody knew where they were, they were well marked. And so you didn't worry too much about the mines. You had barbecues sort of 10 metres from the mine field, but they were so well marked, and yeah, everybody knew where they were. But there had been troubles in the past.

Anzac Day

Just on the first tour, the Anzac Day, in the middle of the buffer zone is a Commonwealth war grave cemetery with five Australian/Kiwis, all airmen buried there. So Anzac Day, we have a Dawn service there. The UN in Cyprus allowed each country, each nation to... You had so many public holidays for everybody, but then each nation could have three of their own.

So we had Anzac Day, Australia Day, and Melbourne Cup Day as our public holidays. And every year, there was a service at the cemetery, a Dawn service there. And then you go back to the mess gunfire breakfast with all the dignitaries and everybody invited, and then we'd have a party in the afternoon.

And the first tour, when we got there, standing on the boom behind the cemetery, were Turkey soldiers in uniform, standing there at attention. And at the right time , they presented arms, and it was just awesome to see that.

A lack of road safety

On the first tour, my first demonstration when I was working there, I went and sat down and chatted with the Greek Cypriot, who was running their side of it. And we got talking, and he says, oh he'd just been promoted to be the officer in charge of traffic for Nicosia. And I said, "Yeah." He said, "I hear in Australia you have traffic campaigns." I said, "Yes." He said, "Oh, what do you do?"

So I started explaining how you organise and run a traffic campaign media and all that. And then I got to the hard part. I said, "Then you go out and you enforce the law." And he looked at me, "On everybody?" I said, "Yep. If you pick that particular thing, no matter what it was, you go out and you book everybody that breaks that particular law." "But what if they have a relative who is a senior police officer or a member of parliament, or one of the priests?" "You enforce the law." "Oh, well it was a good idea. I'll put it aside. Not going to be done."

They were killing more on the roads than we were in Australia. And the population, at that stage, it was only 360,000. And that's an act of God. So yeah, road safety was your biggest problem, and as far as I was concerned.

Arrival in East Timor

Well, Habibi had said you can have a vote for independence, and the UN was invited to run it. And it was actually run by the UN. The ballot complete, from start to finish, was run by the UN. Australian electoral commission provided all the electoral material. You had 247 UN police as they are called now, not CIVPOL from all over the world. With me, there was Spanish, Brazilians, Senegalese, Malays, Pakistanis, Australians, Kiwis, I keep forgetting the last one, but yeah eight different nations in 24 police. Oh, Americans were the last one.

Yeah. Now, I was in the Amira Regency. I remember when we arrived, we flew in, in three groups, the Australians. The Australian contingence was 50. And there was three groups flown in one week apart, so it didn't look like it was an all-Australian operation. You mingled in with a bunch of others all the time. And I always went on the last group to fly in.

We flew in. And I met the commissioner, and he told me where I was going. He said, "You'd be going to the regency district of Amira," and I'd be the boss. He said, "But I'll probably have to replace you later on with one of the South American contingent commanders that will be coming in, because they're coming in with large contingents." "Yep, not a problem. I can do whatever job you give me."

The funny thing was, we arrived one morning, in the morning, we were supposed to get a convoy of six vehicles, each three different groups of six to go via three different areas. Two of the convoys turned up and headed off, and two vehicles of my six turned up. And I talked to the drivers, "Oh yeah. Well the other four turned up and went to different direction." Right, now those are four vehicles the UN will never see again.

So we're sitting there, and eventually, we didn't know what we were going to do, but we eventually said, "Right, let's go and load up." Somebody came in with a minivan, and we loaded that, used that to put some stuff in. And we went down and filled up whatever we could from the store. We met JJ. He was a British storeman who ran the place. Excellent guy. Turned a blind eye while we stole him blind, robbed him blind, because he just believed, "I don't need it in here. I need to get it out."

Then we drove to the headquarters there. I walked into the operations room and was met by a liaison officer. And he said, "Well, they're busy." He said, "Sit down." So we sat down and we were just having a coffee. Me and him, well we actually had two, and I could listen. There were two Australian officers in there, and some of the Indonesian senior officers. And it was just pure accusing each other of everything. And there was no attempt to compromise from either side. And it was just a damn mess. And they stormed out, never said hello to me. But I said, "Okay."

Well I finished my coffee, and this young fellow went over, and next, the two officers come down, there's another coffee. And we're sitting down, and said, "Look, I'm sorry, I'm late." Told them the story about the vehicles. And we all agreed I'd never see those four vehicles again. "Right, so what are we going to do?" I asked, I said, "Well, what do you suggest or what do I need to fill in to get an escort for tomorrow to go up to where I want to, and where do you suggest I put my people up for the night?" And he said, "Oh." He was the head of the Brimob in East Timor. Well he said, "Yeah, I will be your escort and we'll go now." It was just a simple matter.

And this is where stuff from the training team and working with people really was excellent. So he became our escort, and we drove to Gleno. And when we got there, there were the other four vehicles already there. They thought that the two I had, were the ones they'd never see again. It was something we learned about the Timorese is, they might try and kill you, but they wouldn't steal from you. It was amazing.

Comparative loss

The UN police job, the mission statement was to advise the Indonesian police, and protect the ballot boxes. That was our job. Now, I stretched both. If I didn't know what was going on, how could I give advice? So I could send people out to investigate different things that were reported to us. If we didn't protect the ballot process, how could we protect the ballot boxes?

And well, the first person I met and sat down and talked to, was the local T and I battalion commander. And basically his main theme early in that conversation was, I'm wearing all my ribbons, because the army guys that helped us with our training said, "One thing with the Indonesians, make sure you wear your ribbons. They know what every one of them means. And make sure as a senior officer, you look good each day." So I did, always. And he is really inquisitive. "Are you really a police officer or are you a soldier that's in disguise?"

And eventually, I was able to convince him, and we actually spoke many times later on. It was interesting. One of his conversations and that conversation he said, "You will probably, being a Vietnam veteran, you will understand how I feel if we are forced to pull out of here." He said, "You lost people in Vietnam, and I'm sure you lost friends." And I said, "Yes." And he said, "Well, I've lost friends here. And if we pull out, then I've lost them for nothing." And it was an interesting statement.


There were threats. Every time we went to a different village, you could guarantee, within 48 hours, something would arrive at our base saying, "You return there, and you will be killed." That was one time. It was actually a typed letter, just found on the desk, inside the office. Another time, it was a young kid who came in with a written note.

So different ways of getting to us. And I implemented a policy, the minute there was a threat, the very next day, we would be in that village. Now it could be myself or a patrol or the UN military liaison officers we had with us, which initially it was a Malay Lieutenant Colonel and an Irish major. And they were joined, not long after, by a Russia Naval officer, Erie; top fella.

The three of them were good. Now, on the day after a threat was received, at least two of those three would turn up in that village every day. And then the next day, we would go back again, and a couple of times. And then this was our way of saying, "Well, have a go." But really, what I was expecting was they wouldn't do a thing, and we would put a bit of spirit into the village.

I personally adopted a policy of, I would be out and about and seen as much as I possibly could. So if you want to make a target, and this is a decision I made, personally, and I never told anybody, and it's in the book, if you want to make a target of my people, now you don't want my people. I'm the target.

And often, I would come back and my counterpart, who I got to know and we became friends; let's be honest, we were friends, he would abuse me and carry on because, "You've been out without your escort again," because he had Tommy. He said, "Never go without an escort." Well, sometimes I did. I had to. But I had one where I was out with the escort, where we were fired at. And there were all sorts of little things all the way through…

Standing firm

I remember one night in Gleno, in the village, little town, every night, there were three militia posts set up, one at each four; one at each of the three major entrances, and one in the centre of town. Now, when I was coming from the office to the house I lived in, I had to drive past that one. And I went and said, "Well, stuff it." Pulled up, got out, and walked up very slowly. Didn't rush, and they all grabbed their... all they had, were homemade guns. And they're looking at me and we got talking. And one of them had a basic of English. So I said, "Right, I'll come back." And the next time I stopped, there was a bloke there who spoke English. And I got a lot of information from them about what the militia was.

Basically, there was a hardcore group who believed that they should remain part of Indonesia. There was another group that had family that was split across the board between east and west Timor. And they didn't want independence for East Timor yet, they wanted independence for Timor. There was a biggest group, who were just there because it was the safest thing to do. As long as you were a member, your family wasn't going to get based up.

And then there was the worst group, and the smallest group, who were just criminals. This was an opportunity to get away with whatever they wanted to get away with. And at one stage, talking with Fretilin leaders, because I got to know them quite well, he told me that they protected 60 of their members for 18 months, because the Indonesians wanted them, because they had actually been in and killed 19 villagers.

And as soon as the militia were up and running, they switched sides and gone and joined the militia, because they figured that was the safest place to be. And he said they will kill at the drop of a hat. And they were more frightened of them. They had to completely change all their bases and everything because they went across. So they were there all the time.

On the ballot day, the day before, one of my outposts was attacked at about 11:30 at night. They were firing automatic fire into the roof of their house, or just about right up about 2:30 in the morning. And I found out later, when I went back 20 years after and I met a bunch of people, amongst them, two fellas] came up to me there and said, "Mr Jeff, you don't remember us? And I said, "No." "But we were part of the militia." "Oh, right."

One of them said, "I was in at Sabi when we started shooting at your people there on the night before the ballot. Why didn't they run?" I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, they were supposed to run to you, and then you were all supposed to evacuate and go to Dili, and that would've been the end of the ballot." I said, "You ran into some Australians, didn't you?" "Hmm, yes sir."

Under attack

On the ballot day, I had 21 polling sites. By 3:00 in the afternoon, 14 of them were under attack in one way or another, and we got them all out. I was standing... Well the big, first one came at 12:00. They attacked the one in Gleno itself. I went racing down there and couldn't get my vehicle through because the Poli was stopping it. So I got out and all of a sudden, Poli was stopping me.

And then the sergeant said, "No. The colonel says you can't go in until he says it's safe enough for you to go in. So then right, you can come in, but I have four Poli on every corner." And then finally I go, "None of them come above my shoulders." So the head was completely exposed if somebody wanted to have a shot, but it didn't matter. Went in there, my counterpart was there with a couple of the militia, standing in the background and they were armed with handguns: revolvers, things like that.

You could see one very well dressed, very tall, obviously Indonesian, and I would suggest by his statute, the way he held himself, he was an army officer of some sort, standing amongst the big group of militia that were there that had come in and attacked this place. We reached a negotiation, [00:54:30] we reached an agreement.

It would reopen, but only UN people, UN internationals would take the boats, that all the local staff would not be involved. Because they were accusing them of telling people how to vote. There was an issue behind that, but not a problem. Anyhow, yep, so that's fine. And then the commissioner flew in with a couple of others, and they were heading off to somewhere.

We got it underway and yap, got everything finished. And then from there, I went back when the counterpart stood outside his comms room. And we just managed all the troubles that were happening all over the place, and people got attacked everywhere. That night, they attacked our headquarters.

Gunshots into the building, because I have no idea how many of the local employed staff were sleeping out the front. So we got all them. And the CIVPOL stood out all night. The next morning, when we tried to get our ballots out, they attacked us again. And then a few days later... While that [inaudible 00:55:49], the UN had been attacked a few times before, and every time it evacuated immediately, and then negotiated back in later.

Other places [00:56:00] got attacked and evacuated immediately and went back. But at least, they were attacked after the ballot was finished. We were the only ones attacked on ballot day. And we stayed from the first attack to the end of eight days. And we got out, and we tried to patrol, we did what we could.

At 11:30 on the 4th of September after the ballot, next door had a phone. The UN security officer, and it was my counterpart ringing to tell me that he had been ordered to withdraw my security, withdraw his security from the UN at midday the next day and not see what happened. So that's when we evacuated the next morning.

Evacuation and exhaustion

We were evacuated to Dili. Now, I ended up getting my helicopter flight, I'd been asking for all the time. I wanted to see an aerial view of the district. I had a pretty good idea, because I'd driven all over it. But finally, when we got down there, one of the boys, I sent one off to get food, one off to get water and one off to organise accommodation for the group of us.

And it didn't matter what nationality. And anyhow, one of the other guys was basically in the company said, "I've just broken the rules and been out of my house." He said, "They've stolen everything," he said, "but they didn't touch the fridge. I've got some..." And there was enough for about half a can of beer each and one of the boys said, "Boss, relax. You got us here. We're alive. Somebody else is making the decisions now." Last thing I remember.

The next thing I remember is I'm waking up and I looked up and I thought I'm in inside of a C-130 and I'm on a stretcher. And I sat up and had a drip in. Sat up and the loadmaster was there. And I said, "How'd I get here? He said, "Lay down mate. You're 10 minutes from Darwin." In the last five days, because there was no food available in the town, the town was empty. We each had four days Australian rations. I'd used two of them.

After about 70 plus hours of no sleep, it was about two hours a day. So yeah the body just said... As soon as it's, "Hey, somebody else is doing it," bang. And apparently, they flew me to the airfield in the helicopter.



A change of career

Well, I joined the Army in '65 as a 17-year-old. Yeah, after a little argument with my stepfather at the time over a girl. She was 23 and he didn't think I was old enough for her. But anyhow, I did infantry training, went to Three Battalion. And eventually ... Well, we did a few other things in Australia, obviously. But then eventually went to Vietnam for the '67/68 tour. We went through Coral–Balmoral, the Tet Offensive in Baria, Operation Pinnaroo in the mountains and a few others.

They suggested that good corporals would go to Kapooka when they came home, was, "You'll be promoted to sergeant." So, I put me hand up to go to Kapooka. And went there as an instructor. Actually, loved the job, but didn't like the town because the town didn't like us. And I put in to go back to Vietnam as a reinforcement. But then I did the first damage to the knee, so that got put off. And then, I'd been there 18 months and got called down to the adjutant's office and said, "Well, here's your promotion to sergeant." And I thought, "Terrific." And then, just before I signed it, she said, "But before we do that, here's your transfer to the training team. They want you to go to them." So, I signed that. Went over and did 12 months as part of the Australian Army Training Team, which was brilliant.

Yeah, probably saw more in that 12 months as far as action went, and there was a lot of action in the first tour. But saw it from a different perspective. When I came home the first time, the only Vietnamese I wanted to see were when I had them in me sights. When you live with them, work with them, got a whole different attitude. So, I think that was good for me, that second tour, really was good. And when you talk to people since then, it was good. And when I came home, I was drill ... Well, I got promoted to sergeant, it was backdated to when the original one was. So, a lot of back pay came through. But I was at Duntroon acting within the infantry sergeant's position in the drill section, because the one that was there was off on medical leave and not supposed to come back.

Went to work one day, and there he was. And the RSM said, "Well, you're going to Wagga." I said, "Who said that?" He said, "The Director of Infantry." "Who's that?" "Colonel Howard." "You mean Harry?" And the person said, "You know the Colonel?" I said, "Yeah, I've been working within six feet of him for nearly 12 months." So, went and saw Harry, and he was the one who told me. He said, "Look, now is the time to go." This was '72. He said, "The end of the year, the Army's going to be cut to pieces. You got somewhere else to go, we won't stop you." So, I left his place and went out to police recruiting, ACT Police recruiting, because where could you be transferred?

ACT Police to Cyprus

It was ACT Police, that was it. And a lot of ex-servicemen were joining. And they were actually targeting ex-servicemen. And the inspector told me when I walked in, without doing anything, he said, "You'll be in. It'll be four months before you can come in, because that's when the next course. But you'll have to come back and do the exams. But don't worry, Sergeant, you're in."

Yep, so four months later, after I did come back and do the exams, I was in. And then became a police officer and did various things. And because I had a young son, I didn't put in for any overseas postings or anything like that because I'd grown up as an Army brat, bounced around from school to school, pillar to pillar. So, I said, "No, until he finishes school, I'm staying in the one place." And then, once he finished school, then started sticking me hand up to go on UN missions as well.

So, not a good career move within the police because they really didn't like it. But I then went to Cyprus was the first one, which was brilliant. It had been running for so long that everything just sort of flowed. And it was a great way to learn UN systems, which became a big help for me when I went to Mozambique.

The Federal Police

I was qualified as an officer. And I was the only officer we had in those days because they had become Australian Federal Police by then with the amalgamation of the organisations. I was the only officer that was really concerned in those days about counterterrorism. And so, wherever I went in my normal job that they had for me, the counter-terrorism guys came with me, the bomb squad came with me, the negotiators came with me, search and rescue came with me, because I was interested in them, and they were all part-timers. So, I became the part-time boss of them as well. In 1979, they amalgamated the ACT Police, the Commonwealth Police as it was then, and part of customs drug enforcement into one organisation.


Mozambique, it's like any of the UN missions, you have to apply. I'd already done one in Cyprus where I learnt a lot of things. Mozambique came up, Bob Bradley took the first contingent to Mozambique. Now, Bob had been in Cambodia with a team, and they worked together as part of it. Now, I missed Cambodia because I was in Cyprus. But he looked at what he wanted for Mozambique, and he used his Cambodian experience. They were all going to work together. And they literally had to build their own accommodation and their own police station when they were there. So, he put together a team of individuals with a variety of skills that would work together as a totality.

Mozambique was the first time the UN changed the whole system. Contingents did not work together. They were split up from one end of the country to the other end. Well, in their case, pairs. Now, if you put Mozambique into Australia, the southernmost point's roughly Brisbane. The northernmost point is just on the border with New Guinea. And internal communications were virtually non-existent. There was a lot of troubles. And we were getting messages back and they were all complaining about the Muslim mafia, as I called them.

Now, when I got over there and later on when I got to tell them, we broke a few barriers down. The Muslims were telling us about the Christian mafia that existed before the Muslim mafia came in. This was all CIVPOL. It was the first time. What they did, the UN wanted to go, well, A, because the police are so different from different nations. Their qualifications are completely different to each other. I mean, even a simple one, the Swedes. Included in the Swedish police is the people who sit at the borders to do your immigration checks.

They're part of Swedish police. So, they could be on a UN mission as a police officer and never done a day's policing in their life. India, a lot of areas in India. sergeant and down, they do traffic control and security. No investigations. Then you've got the next level up, which are the inspectors which they call sub-officers. They do the police work. And then, above them are the group that are trained to be the officers in charge, but never actually do any police work. So, you've got a wide variety of skills that can be brought to the situation. So, the UN decided to spread the skills, rather than have one area get a lot of good policing and another area get absolutely none. And it was something we'd never experienced before. And there was a lot of culture clashes.

The Australian contingent

Australia said we would come and help, and they would provide 16 police officers. So, Bob took 16, I took 16 to go and replace them. I flew in ... Well, once I saw all the troubles that Bob was having, and you still weren't getting enough to really understand what the problem was, when I did the selection process, and that was the best job I did in the whole mission, I went for people who were good negotiators.

That's what I was after. People that could go into a potentially violent situation, talk it down, have the parties go away and be happy, and know you're not coming back there for at least 48 hours. That was the type of person I wanted. And pretty well, that's what I got.

UN roles

The UN sent in fixed battalions, forward battalions, military observers, civilian police, and an election component, as well as the usual admin people that were there. Yep. The de-mob was the military observers, backed by the forward battalions. Our job was human rights abuses. Any human rights abuses we had to investigate, no matter which side, monitoring the police in what they did, monitoring the prisons, which was a big one, or potentially a big one.

So, they were our three main roles. And obviously everybody actually became involved when it came to the election. Yeah. We were all actually became part of the planning committee for the election in ... Not the election, in an actual observer component of the election.

Set up and processing

It was a mess. I mean, the infrastructure was just about non-existent. I mean, when driving from the airport to the UN headquarters, I'd say 70% of the vehicles on the road on that day were white with UN on the ... Well, actually NU, Nations Unities, because it was in Portuguese, on the side of them. At least 70% of the vehicles were UN. When I flew in, there was ... Fortunately, Bob had two people that were based in Maputo, so I stayed with them. And I found a hotel. I went over a week early to do the processing. And fortunately, I did, because really the UN wasn't overly worried about extra people coming in. Matter of fact, they were pretty pissed off that we were changing people over.

But because I knew the systems, I got in and started organising it, because you had to do a two-day induction course. You had to get a driving test for everybody. And while I was sort of starting to organising, I ran into a Nigerian officer. And he said, "Oh, what are you doing?" And I told him. And he said, "Can we join in with you? We've been sitting here for five days and nobody's even spoken to us yet." So, I took him with me. And we then got the package set up, which took about ... It was a five-day package getting everybody issued with everything they need. I mean, I already had the photographs and everything. And I got all the UN ID cards printed and ready. And when the boys landed, I was inside the airport to deliver them to them as they got off the plane.

So, knowing the systems, which is what Cyprus gave me, I got everything set. So, when the boys arrived, we got them up and running and on the way very quickly. And the Nigerians were rapt because they got to do the same thing. It was there in that week was the first time I ever ran across a place where I was not liked purely because I was an Australian. I had never come across that before anywhere. And the Malays didn't like us, and that was because of something one of our prime ministers had said about their prime minister, you know? I mean, that was big, that was a big issue with them at the time.

A bit of a stuff up

The Pakistanis and the Indians didn't particularly like us over something. And I can't remember what, but it all revolved around cricket. So, there was the issue there. Some of the other individuals had had run-ins with some of Bob's people who'd been put in ... Well, when they first arrived, there was a Swede that was the commissioner who had actually worked with the Australians in Cyprus.

So, he put almost every one of Bob's people in positions of command from one end of the country to the other. Now, some people thrived on it and knew what they were doing. But he had a hell of a lot of people that really did not have an idea what to do. And it became a bit of a stuff up with those individuals. They should never have been put in that position. But when the Swedish commissioner went home because his wife got sick, and he stayed one week too long, he was replaced with an Egyptian, who promptly started changing positions across the country. And that's where we get the Christian mafia versus the Muslim mafia.

Accommodation and a brothel

I mean, with the UN, with the police, you get mission subsistence allowance. The UN issues you with a beret, an ID card and hopefully a driver's license. If you don't get your driver's license, you're supposed to go home, and a vehicle. The rest of it ... Oh, and the cravat. The rest of it, they provide you with cash and you provide your own accommodation, your own food. And you can go to the UN medical. Being the second group, the first group had already had established accommodation. 

So, when I got to Beira, they'd just moved into what Bob had been in and the house he was in, which was interesting. It was a duplex. We had the largest portion of the downstairs area, or the small area next to it and the upstairs. But the other half was actually a brothel. An operating brothel. And their prime customers were African UN personnel. And the girls that worked there, they had their kids living with them. 

And we got on great with their kids. We even had one of our boys say, I taught him how to sing, "I want to want to be, a walla, wallaby." But yeah, so the house was there. I mean, it was upcoming, it was a house. The power was on most of the time, except when it went out for the whole town. Water ran for about an hour and a half each morning. And you collected it, and we had ... Bob had a house boy. And we reemployed him because he was good. And yeah, your food was a bit of an issue. But yeah, apart from that.

All or nothing

Well, to start with, when I got there, I flew up to Beira three days before Bob did a handover to me. And then, they left and the rest of the boys ... Well, they were scattered across the country. But the ones between Maputo and Beira came by convoy delivering vehicles in pairs. They took three days to do the trip. And once they got there, we set up.

Once again, I couldn't get to meet the regional commander. Now, Bob had been the regional commander originally. But he'd just been pushed aside and he was just doing planning. And you know, couldn't get to meet him, so I got put on as a worker on the delivering equipment out to the new outposts that were being set up, which was not a problem. And then, well, one of the things I told the boys in the first two days when they were there was, "Whatever job they give you, do it. And do it better than anybody else." And anyhow, so I did that job. And then I was put onto the patrol crew for the city. And then, I turned up for the night shift and I was the only one there.

The rest of the patrol, they weren't going to go out there at night. They might get shot by the locals, because, let's be honest, just about every house had an AK47 in it. Even though theoretically they'd been handed in, just about every house had at least one AK47. And I was out this night and one of the UN drivers had an accident. It was a Jordanian in the UN vehicle. So, I went out and did the investigation and came in, had it all typed up and delivered it to the provincial commander, who was an Indian, the next morning before I went home to have a sleep and come back for the 3:00 for the afternoon session. And I came back at 3:00 and he said, "No, no, no.

You're not in that. You are now my provincial investigations officer. That was a good report." Terrific. So, that led to, I got sent off to the hospital because there was somebody there who'd been shot by the police. Okay, so I went in. I did an interview, and it really boiled down ... This was a big eye-opener on Mozambique, which is something that hadn't been covered by our foreign affairs person. Mozambicans do not work on compromise. It's all or it's nothing. They will take either. But you try and put something in the middle, then they demand all.

Investigating a shoot out

there had been a factory that had closed down during the troubles. A Swedish company had bought it, started to reopen it. And just thought well, the best thing was to reemploy the people that used to be there. So, they did. And then the people said, "Well, you owe us money because we didn't get paid." And they said, "Look, we'll give you half," trying to do the right thing.

That was it. It's all or nothing. So, they actually turned up armed. So, the armed police went in, and there was a gunfight. Now, neither side can actually tell me who fired the first shot. All the ones I spoke to from both sides. And there was even suggestion it was actually from somebody that wasn't actually in either group. But the thing was, the police were trained, the other guys weren't. I think five of them or three of them were killed and about five or six in hospital with gunshot wounds. But they all sat down, and I went through the whole lot. And really, it was a day and a half later. And then, put that report together. And put that in. And all of a sudden, I get the message from the regional commander, I'm now on the regional investigations team.

On that one, when I ... A lot depended, as I found out later, a lot depended on what I recommended. And basically, following the UN definitions of self-defence, the local police had fired in self-defence. It was a fair fight, so there was no repercussions on the police. Later ones where the police have done something, I would send the report through. And I happened to know because you never get told what's done. But when you turn up to visit the local prison and here's the police officer sitting behind the bars. So, I asked, he said, "Oh, he did such and such and the UN found him guilty." In other words, whatever I put on there was what was carried out.

Distributing clothes and a Hill's Hoist

Yeah, interacting with the locals, we did that a few times. I mean, probably a prime one, when the clothing arrived that we were going to hand out. We actually found a local priest who was running a displaced persons village, really. They were all women, all kids basically there. Their husbands had been on one side or the other and had been killed in the war. And we said, "Righto, we'll bring the clothes," our share, because each group, we split them up. They went right over the country. Our share, we'll take them up and hand them out. And he said, "You should just give them to me." And I said, "No, we'll come up and hand them out." I'm a trusting soul, but not that trusting. Anyhow, we started handing them out. And no, there was no way. They had no concept of waiting in line and just get your ... Everybody wanted everything.

So, in the end, we gave them to him. Now, that's another story. And then, once that was all done, that's when we erected the Hills Hoist play gyms at this place. And yes, I learnt a lesson. You've got to put exactly the right bolt in exactly the right place. We got to the very end, and the last nut would not fit on the first one. And we had to undo back until we found where we put the wrong one. And it was a very, very hot day that day. But anyhow, that all worked well. Two days later, the girls next door at work were wearing some of our stuff we'd ... So, I went and fronted the priest. And he said, "Yep." We said, "Really?" He said, "I didn't need clothes." He said, "I needed money to buy medicines and food." He said, "So, we went down the markets and sold them." Okay, I'm happy with that.

The Muslim system

Serious breach of human rights, I did myself. So, more than three killed. Anything that was going to cost the UN money, motor vehicle accidents are the main ones of them. And internal affairs issues became my job with the two people I worked with. There was Paulo, who was a Brazilian. It was brilliant having him because he spoke Portuguese and I didn't need an interpreter.

And Seko, I think, one of the Nigerians, anyhow, was with ... That was the three-man regional team. But our main job was going through and checking over everything, and then following up on it. And quite often, I mean, there was just an absolute balls up because there was one contingent, they were all there, and all were majors. But they were actually a unit of a counter terrorism police unit, who were being rewarded because they'd wiped out a nest of fundamentalists. So, none of them had an idea how to be a police officer. And there was one report that was done by one of them and a Jordanian captain. And I immediately gave somebody else the job of going to do it again because it was such ...

Anyhow, a couple of days later, I took the Jordanian with me to go out to another village, just to ... And he was very good. We got talking and he said, I said, "Look, why was your other report so bad? And you did a good job here." He said, "Oh, sir. You do not understand the Muslim system." And I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, in the Muslim system, you cannot appear to be smarter than your superior. You must be ..." He said, "With you, sir, I have no problem." He said, "I will never be the policeman you are." be said, "but that major, he was not a policeman."

The supply chain

We had one group right up on the border in the very northwest. And they apparently were living in a very good compound because it was an NGOs compound that had been built. But they had no power, no running water. They had a water truck, because they used to go down, fill up, and come back and draw the water from that. And their food ... Well, they used to get their food from Malawi. But then, that travel across borders to buy anything had been banned. And whoever was up in that area it was decided had to comply. So, we'd taken ... Each of us had taken 10 days' ration packs with us.

So, just sent the message around, "Righto, get to me five for your 10 days." And we shipped all that off to them. Then, Shan found a UN generator, which we shipped north. And then, somebody up there actually recognised it and sent it back. But then the boys up north found one and sent. So, we got a generator up and running. And then, in Beira there was an Australian there who was there as a town planner with an NGO working with the local government. He was going at least every second weekend to Harari to visit his family. So, he started bringing back eskies full of meat for us. It was something you just couldn't get. And so, he'd bring it back really frozen. We fixed our freezer up and put it in there, really deep froze it.

And then, when we heard that the Japanese movement control at the airport, felt sorry for them. I mean, they were so used to things working on time. The UN didn't. But they would call me and say, "The flight's coming in." We would deliver to them the food to put on the flight when it left in eskies. They would tell the movement controller in the north, who would then call the boys up there, and they'd pick it up, put it in their freezer, and then send it on the next day. So, you found ways to get around things and to do things. So, that was all part of it. I mean, just feeding yourself was sometimes a problem.

King Tiger prawns and bug tails

There was a pub around the corner, which we went to. The food there was absolutely horrible, greasy. But you could have a drink. But there was no way in the world you'd have too much to drink. And I mean, that was 100 metres away. And across the road from that was the beach. But when you saw what was on the beach, you didn't go walking on the beach, never mind swimming in the water. There was always a young ... Well, one of the locals used to turn up every day with his bag full of King Tiger prawns and mostly sand that he wanted to sell. And I knew where he was catching them and I knew where the sewer outlet was, so I was not having anything to do with that.

But we actually ran into, at one stage, two Aussies we saw walking in the street. They just yelled, so we went. They were both captains of South African fishing trawlers that were fishing in the straits between Mozambique and Madagascar for bug tails and King Tiger prawns. So, he said, "Look, we come in here once a month. As long as you've got a video that you can give us with some football on it," and they didn't care what type, "We'll just give you prawns and bug tails." So, the videos had been shipped over to us every week, and we used to share them around, send them around.

The dollar line

Well, I used to ring home every Sunday, because we could ring. Now, part of that was to pass information to one crew that I just could not get to any other way. So, Margaret would ring his wife, and they would exchange stories, and then they'd ring back and we'd pass on information that way. Then the AFP said they wanted a fax line put into the house, so that we could send faxes and report to them.

Now, in Mozambique, you could get that was called a dollar line, you had to pay in US dollars. So, we had the line put in and fax put in. But that had to come out of ... I had to pay for that upfront from my MSA. And the AFP, well they reimbursed me for everything.

Breaking down the barriers

The big difficulties were culture within the UN. And that really was just a matter because nobody really knew what the others were like and how they worked… one of the things we learnt before we went away, what was precious over there was paper. So, we actually took a trunk full of A4 paper and notepads and all that, which became excellent bartering material. And that also got us in with different people. And we broke down the problems that had been there. By the time we'd finished, with the one exception of an individual, I think we'd broken down the problems that had existed when Bob was there. And that was the one who was the regional commander, he really still had a problem with Australians.

And when I got back to Maputo, I was actually invited into meet the commissioner. And we sat there and had a talk for three and a half hours in his office. And then, he came to our medal parade. And it was the first medal parade that he'd been to in the UN since he'd been there. He hadn't been to any of the others, he'd always sent somebody else. So yeah, purely by just treating people right, we broke down the barriers, and only because we'd been forewarned, there's an issue. We didn't understand the issue. And really, it was a cultural issue. People just didn't understand.

Planning to withdraw

Well , the election was over. There was then another two, three weeks when we weren't allowed to go anywhere because everybody was worried that, hey, they might not accept it and we might be going back to war. That didn't happen. Another week went by and everything's all right. Everybody can start having their days off again. Frank got two days off and somebody else got two days off. I had a request in to do a trip to visit all the people and was approved. And all of a sudden they told me, "No."

The newly elected government in agreement with the newly elected opposition said, "Well, thank you very much, UN. You can go home now." And the UN said, "All right, we're into withdrawal phase now. No more leave. Start planning the withdrawal." And that became my job for central region. He called me straight away and took me off the investigations, and I became one of the two planners for how the withdrawal would occur within the region.

Crocodiles, lions, and alleged elephants

Well , there were a lot of crocodiles in Mozambique. A hell of a lot of crocodiles. Now, we had one where they ... Basically, every day you heard about locals being taken by crocodiles. And one of the patrols actually found one, they had the leg taken, but the person was okay. And he called up and he wanted me to get the UN helicopter down so we could get this person to hospital. It was one hell of an argument that I didn't win. "No, we're not here to pick up and move locals, it just will not happen."

And it's just something that occurs in other regions. They didn't have insurance for moving locals. So, they weren't going to do anything without the insurance. So, the idea was then that ... So, they put him in the car, which they got told not to do, but they did it. But by the time they got him to hospital, he died. So, yeah. But there was another one with that, when I got a call to the radio room because one of the outstations where they were living in tents was there. And they were sort of saying they wanted me to send out some of the Italian military unit that was there, the battalion. And I asked them why. They said, "Well, sir, the lions are eating the voters.

And we are worried that they are going to eat the CIVPOL," because there was very few animals left in the country because they'd all ... During the war, they'd been killed for food. And there was obviously a pride of lions out there that was feeding on locals. And the CIVPOL were a bit worried that they were next in line to be lion food. But not much you could do about that. And then, there was another one, a report with an elephant. Now, the vehicle came in, and it was a mess. Yes. And a herd of elephants had come into the camp and trampled and attacked this UN vehicle. They, for some reason, it was obvious it had been rolled about five times. But that was their story, and they were sticking to it. And following my principle that no local had been hurt or anything, that was it.

An arrest

There was one, and probably one of the worst experiences in my life was, I had to go to the hospital again. This time there was a five-year-old there that had been injured in a UN motor vehicle accident. And walking into that kid's ward damn near tore me to pieces. I mean, I can still now, I can still smell it, I can still see it, I can still hear it. It was just unbelievably bad. Got talking, and that had been from the next province. So, I had to go up there and follow up on the investigation. Now, when I got there, an interesting story again, because this is completely different.

I arrived, and they weren't happy with an investigator coming from regional headquarters. We've already written that off. So, I looked at it, and there's no mention about a five-year-old being injured. Matter of fact, there's no mention of anybody being injured. Okay, so I'm starting to go through files. And next thing, I look around and there's only me and an Irish constable there. Everybody else has gone. And there's this noise outside. So, we open the door and the police station is surrounded, or the UN offices are surrounded by all these locals, and they've got guns.

So, we're standing there, and fortunately one of them spoke very good English. And we started to talk. And he said, "Well ..." And this would have been 7:00, 7:30 at night. So, it's been a long day. And we started to talk. And he said they were all people who had applied to become drivers for the UN. And they'd been interviewed by a UN civilian and a local interpreter. And they had all paid money to get the job. And then, they hadn't got the job because they brought in two Australians, which are two of my boys, to do driver testing. And those that failed the test didn't get the job. And most of them couldn't drive to save themselves, they'd never driven. But they were now upset. They didn't want the job, they understood that. That part they understood.

What they were upset about was that the UN people and the local had gone away with all this money of theirs, and they wanted their money back. So, we're just sitting there and we're just chatting. And they said, "We know where the local lives." Okay. So, "We'll follow you." So, we followed him in the car, the two of us and we got there. And they were already there around the house. And they weren't game to go in because they knew he had an AK in there, it was just a typical Mozambican house. So, we went in. And I came and had a talk to him. He was so glad to see us, he thought he was safe. So, I said, "Righto, you just stay here." I went out and I said, "Right, we're going to bring him out. But if anybody touches him or hurts him in any way, then that person's got to deal with me." Okay, they accepted that. We brought him out, put him in the car. And the other thing I said, "And we will follow you to the local police station when we leave here." "Yes, sir." So, we got him in the car.

He thought we were taking him back to the UN headquarters, and we took him to the local police station. Went in there, told them the story. Left him and said, "Look, we will be back tomorrow morning. You can do your interviews, but he better not have a mark on him. There will be no forced confessions." "Yes, sir." And they were good. And we went back the next morning. He'd admitted to everything. And so, he was processed through the local legal system. The UN employee, by the time I got the message to Maputo, was already on the plane on his way home…Yeah, well the UN reimbursed the money…Yeah. But then I went and followed up on the accident.

And it turns out that it wasn't just a five-year-old girl. Over a distance of 600 meters, he'd killed three people while he was driving, and she was the last one that was injured. So, put that report in and basically said he should go home. Now, it turns out he had contacts of some sort, and he didn't. And although I wasn't doing ... When they were withdrawing, he actually killed another one when they were driving the vehicles out. So, he should never have been ... That should never have happened. But that was one of the things you had to deal with.

Selecting the right team

I think the best work I did was in the interview process before we left in selecting the people. Every one of them did a great job. Every one of them, the whole lot had started at the bottom rungs of wherever we were. And by the time we finished, I mean, there was a deputy regional commander in northern region. There's a provincial commander.

There was a number of investigations officers. So, as a team, in our final dinner we had before we left, I said to them, I said, "Righto." I mean, I was part of a group that called itself the team. I said, "I've now been part of a second group that can call themselves the team." And I was really proud of them, what they did as individuals.

Long hours

It was a good mission. It was great. While the election period itself was absolutely ... I mean, 4:00 AM start. Well, first day, there was going to be two days of voting and one day of counting. To get all these international observers out, we had to start moving them at 4:00 AM. So, it was a 3:30 get out of bed, drive to the hotel. Now, as I'm driving to the hotel, I drove past one of the polling sites. And all the locals were there lined up, dressed in their Sunday best. And I just looked at them and I thought, "Wow." So, there was the little team, the planning team had now become the emergency response team for problems.

So, we decided, right, we'll get everybody out, then we'll go and have breakfast. Yes, we got everybody out. And by the time we got the last lot out, the first lot were reporting there's an issue. I mean, it might be there was no ink for them to dip their fingers in. There was ballot papers hadn't turned up and little things. So, we spent all morning running around from that. And we finally stopped at about 2:00 and went and had breakfast. That night, when they all came back in, we had to debrief them and get everything ready. Now, that night finished at 1:00 AM, by the time we had everybody in and settled. And so, we went up and we were back at 4:00 to get them out again.

That time, we didn't get all the provinces because they'd been sorted. But we were still, by the time we finished that night was 9:00 PM, finished a lot earlier. But they hadn't been able to get everybody to vote. So, the decision was, they'd allowed an ... Had an extra day there. They'd allowed the extra day. They said, "Right, we're going to have a third day of voting, and then we'll do the counting on the fourth day." So, once again, it was 4:00 AM, everybody out. That one finished in the vicinity of 8:00 PM, so it wasn't too bad.

Conflict resolution

And next morning, I think it was Shan and I drove at 6:00 left the next morning to drive to the nearby province headquarters to do an internal investigation into a fight between two. Got back, coming back that afternoon or that evening, heard a call over the radio calling to help because shots had been fired. And anyhow, nobody answered, which didn't surprise me because I didn't recognise ... I recognised the voice, but I didn't recognise the call sign. And it was Charles Mackay] who was from Zambia, Zambian police, Superintendent Charles Mackay from Zambia…but spoke with a perfect Scottish accent.

Anyhow, we turned up and there was police in the street. There was, obviously somebody had let loose with a burst from, because there was holes in tires and holes in the sides of cars. Nobody has been hit or anything. So, the two of us get out, and there's a building over there, the police are here. And so, we're trying to find out what's going on. And they were the election workers from the local election workers. Now, they hadn't been paid for the fourth day. And they knew, if these people didn't pay them now, they would never get it. So, they were determined to get their money for the fourth day. And they'd ambushed the local electoral president in his car and were wanting the money. And somebody had smashed the car window and he'd been hit. He wasn't ... He was only hit, he wasn't seriously injured.

Anyhow, the police had turned up, and they'd all run into this building, and they were all in there. And the police said, "Well, we're going to go charging in." And so, I'm standing with the police, the commander of the group. And Shan said, "I'll follow them." So, he followed them in. And he said, "Lucky I did." Bloke that went in, "Lucky I did." He said, "None of them had a torch and it was pitch black inside." He said, "So, I went and turned the torch on. We found the door where everybody was." And he said, "Because I was there, they brought them all out." Nobody went in, no shots were fired. They came out. Now, I'd called up headquarters and said, "Look, I want some more CIVPOL here, preferably a couple that might be able to speak Portuguese." I knew exactly who would turn up, the two Brazilians who were there, who were really good. They knew what they were doing. They were good.

Anyhow, sure enough, the vehicle pulled up about 500 metres down the road, driven by somebody else who was not coming any closer. And these two guys came out and helped us out. And we got that resolved and got the message away. "Right, well done. Now, we'll be in there in the morning at the police station to check on these people to make sure they haven't been injured." And we did. Next morning we went in there. They said, "Right, we waited until you came in so you could see that the ones we will release hadn't been hurt."

So, they let 18 of them go and charged the one who'd actually broken the window and injured the person. Right, happy with that. That's part of the procedure. Yeah. Shan kept ... He did most of the checking of the prison. The prison wasn't great. But I went out there a couple of times, and yeah, it was okay. It wouldn't have been acceptable in Australia. But I kept telling him, I said, "Shan, it is better than the children's ward at the hospital." He wouldn't believe me, so I took him. He said, "I'm not going to complain about the prison again ever, boss."

A trunk load of paper

So, before we left, we gave what was left of our paper to the local administrator, because they didn't have any. So, he got a trunk full of paper. We had an excellent medical kit. We had a trunk full of medical stuff. We gave all of that to the hospital. Now, there was only one problem with all of that. I think I'd been home about two months and I got called to the commissioner's office.

And he handed me this letter, which had been translated from the local government administrator thanking me for donating this paper to him. And the commissioner said, "What the hell is all that about?" So, I explained this to him. And he said, "Righto, yep. Happy with that."

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Geoff Hazel's story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 4 March 2024,
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