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"AUSTRALIA REMEMBERS" ADDRESS

No 30 (THE HYDRAULIC) SQUADRON

BY CHAPLAIN CAMERON SMITH
(SQUADRON LEADER)

AT RAAF BASE RICHMOND
 


MONDAY 25 SEPTEMBER 1995. (it rained!)

Gentlemen of No 30 Squadron - I hope I am not being presumptive in calling you gentlemen - and your ladies, just over a week ago, 50 years ago, Beaufighters of No 30 SQN landed in New Guinea. A month later the Chaplain arrived and was given permission by the CO, Blackjack Walker, to give a sermon at the CO's weekly parade. However, Black Jack gave the Padre a proviso: ''Keep it short." I'll try and do likewise but make no promise.

And you need to know that if I see any of you old buggers sleeping, the WOD is at the back and you will probably find yourselves on report.

On the 8th December 1941, our time - it was still 7th December on the other side of the international dateline - Japan launched the Pacific war with almost simultaneous attacks on Pearl Harbour, Hong Kong and Thailand! Malaya. History records that with the destruction of the United States of America's naval strength at the outset, Japanese forces and convoys were able to move in any part of the Western Pacific, without serious hindrance.

Thailand resisted the Japanese invasion for only five and a half hours. On the third day of the war Singapore was doomed when HMS REPULSE and HMS PRINCE OF WALES were sunk.

Because we are fed a diet of American history, we are mostly unaware that Australia was at war with Japan two hours before the USA was; that the first Japanese losses of a ship and 2000 troops were inflicted by RAAF Hudson bombers at Khota Bharu in North Eastern Malaya, some hours before Admiral Yamamoto had his planes in the air to attack Pearl Harbour. As we know, Japanese forces' swept through Malaya, captured Singapore, then ranged far and wide, extending their hold on the East Indies and the Philippines - where the oil was. They attacked Australia's northern ports (in fact Darwin had more bombs dropped on it in the first raid than were ever dropped on Pearl Harbour); they had infiltrated safely into Northern New Guinea, the Solomons and the Gilbert islands, and in only three months were undisputed masters of the South West and Central Pacific.

It is an interesting exercise to review how prepared Australia was at that moment. We had 370,000 Service personnel, of which, 20,000 were in the Navy; 60,000 were in the Air Force, and the Army had 285,000, of which 100,000 were regulars - but they were in the Middle East weren't they? And our C-I-C, General Blamey, where was he? He was in the Middle East too, wasn't he? We did have 10,000 Army troops at home but they were the part-time Militia.

On the 8th December 1941, when we found ourselves at war, the RAAF had only two squadrons at home: both were maritime surveillance squadrons, equipped with Catalinas and Empire Flying Boat aircraft.

John Curtin had been our Prime Minister for only two months.
So, Yep! Australia was ready for war.

We now know how the tide was turned but not before we had lost 15,000 troops in Malaya; Rabaul and the Dutch East Indies were in enemy hands and Port Moresby was perilously close to being lost. Also, we should not forget that Sydney Harbour was attacked; that enemy aircraft made reconnaissance flights over Sydney; Darwin was attacked 67 times; Townsville was bombed, and a number of other ports on the North West Coast were bombarded.

Along with her Allied partners, who shared the secrets they had from cracking the Japanese naval code, Australia should not have been so surprised or ill prepared when the Pacific War began in earnest. The truth is though, that we were surprised and we were ill prepared, but not for long.

PM Curtin's complete overhaul of Australia's ability to defend itself completely mobilised the country. Those men who were able, were called up; women were called upon to do the men's work; industry was galvanised into war footing; aircraft capable of matching it with the Japanese types were obtained or built; fleet services were revamped; the Americans, with Supreme Commander MacArthur swept into Brisbane; the troops in the Middle East were brought home and almost immediately sent straight into the Owen Stanleys of New Guinea, and most importantly, on Monday 9th March 1942,30 SQN, affectionately, ''The Hydraulic Squadron", was formed here at Richmond.

The battle for New Guinea was pivotal in the Pacific Theatre. At Milne Bay, then in the Coral Sea; then on the Kokoda Track, the Japanese suffered their first reversals of the war. In the air war, it was a long time before we gained mastery over a superbly trained Japanese Air Force but thankfully it happened. And the work of interdiction, performed so brilliantly by 30 SQN and sister squadron from Richmond, 22 SQN, was invaluable in causing the supply problems which stymied the Japanese attack across the Owen Stanleys and later blunted their North Coast defensive capability. And who could forget the remarkable victory in The Battle of the Bismark Sea where you performed so extraordinarily with units of the USAAF, 22SQN and 10 SQN. It is you guys, and others like you, who fought so desperately, heroically and capably to bring Japanese ambitions undone, that today's generation of Australians salutes now.
 
But there was a price, was there not? When all the jokes are told; when all the history is unfolded; when all the tributes are offered, there was a price. It was a price shared by our Service personnel who became prisoners of war and lived with deprivation, cruelty, starvation and de-humanisation. And the carnage of the war - the price - was not limited to men in uniform. Nurses and civilians, nuns and priests were slaughtered as well. In one way or another, the war - the price - touched every Australian family.

We may never be able to estimate the human cost of war, let alone the colossal wastage of natural resources necessary to conduct the war. But while we think of our losses, other suffered too. Island hopping from the Marshall Islands to Okinawa and especially in the Philippines, the Americans suffered terrible losses. Because of the direct air support you gave .them, you will never forget the American contribution and neither should the rest of Australia. And of course, there was the enemy. In every Pacific Theatre, Japanese casualties were eventually massive and who could forget the horrific casualties in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after atomic bombs were dropped.

In the past few years one of the most significant and moving ceremonies seen in Canberra was the entombment of the Unknown Soldier. He came from France but the remains of unknown soldiers lie everywhere in the Pacific region. Some of them were your comrades who perished. I ask you, are unknown soldiers as unknown as we first think? Of one thing we can be certain: the Unknown Soldier was sound of mind and body. In the Old Testament you will find an injunction about sacrifice: ''Whether male or female, it shall be offered without blemish." The gods of war still maintain that old demand. In WW2, all the young men offered to the gods of war were sound and strong. Medical and psychiatric testing are used to make certain that the gods of war get the best.

Of all the insane and suicidal procedures, can there be anything worse than this?
That the nations involved in war should pick out their best, and in one mighty holocaust offer over ten million for slaughter? But like the Demtal adds, 'there is more'. Also from the Old Testament we have that awful stuff we had read to us where Samuel told Saul to 'Go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy everything they have; do not spare them but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."

That is war, and that always will be war.

The war, it has been estimated, cost 48 million lives altogether. Co-lateral damage, as we call it today, was immense. World war exacts an awful price of life and duty. That is war and that will always be war, even if the ignorant like Derryn Hinch do not understand its nature.

For those who get caught up in war it is hell and it is little wonder that when hell ends, as it did in the Pacific Theatre 50 years ago, the relief translates into an euphoria because the hell has ended - and you have survived.

Today we pause to remember the cost of victory - at Wards Strip - at Milne Bay - at Goodenough - at Madang - at Manus - at Tarakan - at Moratai - and all points in between. We pause to honour those who fought: to offer respect for those who died. To remember those who carry the physical as well as the mental scars of battle - the maltreated, and those who grieve. Today we pause to honour you guys - our heroes, of 30 Squadron.

With the introduction of the atomic bomb, a new dimension for human suffering was introduced. In the past 50 years the bomb has not been used again but wars have not ended. In the intervening period - the Vatican tells us - nearly 200 conflicts have been recorded at a cost of nearly 50 million victims. There has scarcely been a day of peace and even today, war is being experienced in over 40 places across the globe.
  • Was the price worth it?
  • Has the world learned anything?
  • Has Australia learned anything?
  • Are we any better prepared?
  • Have we really learned that peace, and every effort to secure peace, is the way God wants us to go and must precede any inclination to fight?
  • Have we learned the need to forgive?
  • Have we learned the need for forgiveness?

There are lessons to be learnt from our conflict with Japan and we all share a responsibility to learn them and to see that they are applied.

God asks us to love one another. It is a request which transcends all international borders, races and creeds; it is a difficult ask of us, yet is the only way to go. Until the world trusts that path we will continue to have unknown soldiers who lie at rest, having paid the tribute to the gods of war.

Across Australia we recognise the debt we owe to our unknown airmen who stand among us today as 30 Squadron personnel, who served in the air; who served on the ground, and who paid the price for us, to deliver us from the darker forces of tyranny and oppression. We offer them our heartfelt thanks for their courage, determination, heroism and sacrifice. We remember that they have been to hell for us and we pray that God will bless them.

We remember too the civilians and children who needlessly died from the impact of war; we remember the scarred; we remember those who lost their loved ones and we remember those who lost their mates and had to leave them behind.

We remember to pray to God that it will never happen again.

Today for those who served with 30 Squadron, Australia Remembers - we remember.

Thank You.