About this blog

This blog is about the history of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and neighbouring areas, such as Pakenham, Cranbourne and Garfield, and any other historical subjects I feel like writing about. It's my own original research and writing and if you live in the area you may have read some of the stories before in the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society newsletter or the Koo-Wee-Rup township newsletter, The Blackfish, or the Garfield township newsletter, The Spectator.
Heather Arnold.

Monday, May 12, 2014

National Service by Frank Rouse

National Service was introduced in Australia in 1951, in response to the Cold War and the rise of Communism. The first intake was in April 1951 and it was abolished in November 1959. It operated again from 1964 until 1972.  This is Frank’s story of his National Service.

Photo: Frank Rouse, on the left, and George Jones on the right.

I was called up in the third intake, at the end of May 1952, when I was 18. This intake took in men from Gippsland.  I spent three months at Puckapunyal, where we lived in a hut with 15 others, eight beds down each side. During the three months we learnt to march and handle a rifle and learn the rifle movements. We had to guard the transport depot, I had the midnight to 4.00am shift and the men from the regular Army used to just ignore us and just walk in. At the end of the three months we did a three day march, 20 miles per day, in full uniform with a 303 rifle, back pack and two ground sheets. We slept with a ground sheet on top of us and it was very cold at night. We received our rations in the morning and had to cook them during the day. Each Unit had a Bren gun which also had to be carried.

During this three month camp I was chosen to attend a march through Melbourne. Only three from my hut were selected. We got the bus to Melbourne and lined up with hundreds of other service men and military bands at the top of Swanston Street, near the old CUB brewery. We marched the length of Swanston Street to the Shrine where we were given refreshments and I caught up with Mum and my sister Dorothy, who had came up from Cora Lynn for the day. It was interesting to march through the crowds and to hear the people cheering.

After that, if you lived near a Drill hall, such as the one at Warragul, you had to attend every Friday for two hours for two years. Because I lived at Cora Lynn I had to attend two three week camps. They were at Scrub Hill near Puckapunyal.  At the first camp, I volunteered to be a driver and drove the Doctor (a Colonel) around in a Jeep. At the second Camp, I volunteered to be medical orderly, as I had done First aid training in the Scouts.  First thing in the morning was a medical parade where I treated minor ailments, made toast for the Doctor and did whatever else I was ordered to by the Doctor. The majority worked on Artillery, alongside the regular Army, and they operated 5½ inch guns which had a twenty mile range.

In 1954, the Queen visited Warragul and as I was still doing my National Service a day guarding the Queen was a day off my National Service.  I rode up from Cora Lynn on my motor bike to the Drill hall where we were assembled. We were inspected to make sure our uniform was correct, issued with our 303 rifles, and then marched over the railway bridge and along the highway to about where C.S & J.S Brown’s garage is (near Napier Street)

From there we were spread along the edge of the road (the old Highway) over the hill and almost down to the railway crossing, on each side of the road. We were stood ‘at ease’ by about 9.45am and we waited for the Queen’s entourage. We waited, unable to move or leave our positions. It was a very good thing that we had better bladders then than we have now.

At about 11.45am the word went out that the Queen was coming and we stood to attention ready to ‘present arms’. The entourage flew past at about 50 miles an hour. We marched back to the Drill hall where we handed over our rifles and we were dismissed.

Other locals who did national service with me were George Jones, from Warragul; Aub Goodman (Vervale), Kevin Batchelor (Bunyip), Mulga Shelton (Pakenham), Butch Giles (Trafalgar),  Stan Riches (Garfield), Ian Chatfield (Nar Nar Goon) and Kevin Wilby (Modella).

I asked Dad how he felt about his National Service and he was very positive about it as he said it was interesting, the other blokes were all a similar age and had a farming background or worked in saw mills, so they all had a similar outlook. Dad had been boy scout so he was used to camping and he was already used to hard work as he had been working on the farm full time since he left school at the end of Form 4, so he found the work easy and what’s more he got paid seven shillings per day, whereas he was paid nothing at home.   Heather Arnold.

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