John Thurgar's story
John Duncan ‘Jack’ Thurgar SC MBE OAM RFD was born on 29 March 1950 in Scone, New South Wales.
In February 1970, John deployed to South Vietnam. He served with the 1st Squadron, Special Air Service Regiment (SASR).
John’s time in Vietnam wasn’t always about fighting a war. Instead, building relationships and respecting Vietnamese culture brought soldiers and civilians together during difficult times.
Once, John won a 5 km foot race to celebrate Hùng Vuong (the Hung Kings’ Temple Festival). Other soldiers (Australian, New Zealand, United States and Vietnamese) and Vietnamese civilians were his competitors.
In 1970, less than a year after his deployment to Vietnam, John was evacuated to Australia with minor injuries from a detonated landmine. Returning home was a challenge. John was dismayed by the hostile reception many Vietnam War veterans received.
After discharge from the Regular Army, John continued to serve in the Army Reserves.
John started working for the Commonwealth Police Force (later the Australian Federal Police, or AFP). Among other police postings, he served 4 tours of duty with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). In his last deployment there, John was the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the Australian Civilian Police (AUSTCIVPOL) detachment in Nicosia. He served under the operational control of the Commander Sector 4 (Nicosia) LTCOL Ian McNabb CD, the CO of LdSH (RC).
During increased tension in Cyrpus on his last tour, a confrontation developed between the UN and Turk military. During that period, a Greek Cypriot farmer accidentally entered an unmarked mixed-barrier minefield separating the belligerent forces. The farmer’s tractor simultaneously detonated an anti-tank mine and an M16 (jumping jack) mine. He was severely injured and lying in no-man’s land within the minefield. As a combat veteran, John’ well knew the danger of entering the mixed minefield’. He moved some 80 m into the minefield, gave life-saving first aid and carried the man out of the minefield where the anti-tank mines posed the greatest threat to their lives.
Later, as the senior investigator for Unrecovered War Casualties – Army, John helped locate and repatriate the 6 Australian men listed as missing in action (MIA) in South Vietnam. He also successfully investigated MIA cases from World War II and the Indonesian Confrontation.
John contributed immensely to Australia’s veteran community. He was an inaugural volunteer and active member of the Australian Vietnam Forces Welcome Home Parade Committee, which organised and fund-raised the 1987 Welcome Home parade.
The Welcome Home committee morphed to form the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial Committee, which fund-raised and oversaw the international design competition, construction and 1992 dedication of the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Anzac Parade, Canberra.