MAJOR GENERAL JOHN CANTWELL – HERO, VETERAN, HUMAN BEING

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Major General John Cantwell (Ret) served in the Australian Army from 1974 to 2012. Rising from the rank of Private to Major General he was on the shortlist to become the Chief of Army following successful command in the Middle East. Instead the PTSD that had long haunted him through two decades took hold and he chose to end his vaunted military career. In the aftermath he wrote Exit Wounds which detailed his war experiences, as a senior commander who had seen combat first hand his openness about PTSD and struggles with it remind all that it is a very real concern and more should be done to help our veterans in our war weary nations.

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General Cantwell was born 1956 in Toowoomba, Queensland and was a cadet as a kid. He joined the Army in 1974 and served in the Military Intelligence Corps where he met his wife. Jane hit with a dart at the pub while they were both serving at Kapooka – it was love at first sight. As a Sergeant, humping it on exercise one day he saw a tank coming flying out of nowhere, an Armoured Corps Officer standing straight up in the hatch as he rolled on by – that was love at first sight too. Attending Officer Cadet School at Portsea in 1981 he was commissioned into the Royal Australian Armoured Corps. On exchange with the British Army in 1990 he hoped to get sent to Saudi Arabia for the first major war in a generation. Small Australian Peace Keeping Contingents had been sent to Rhodesia, the Sinai and Namibia but this was the first war since Vietnam and Cantwell got his wish. Related imageHe was allocated to an M113 Communications Bradley Armoured Personnel Carrier with two crew members where he would effectively liaise between British and American forces as they moved forward in the 100 hour ground war. Major Cantwell had been waiting and training his whole professional career for such an experience. The Allied Forces were outnumbered 4 to 1 by the Iraqi Army, the fourth largest in the world and the enemy had time to have dug in and fortified their positions. The Allies had air superiority and better equipment even if many had not seen combat and the Iraqi’s had fought the Iranians for over a decade. Decisions had to be made, tough ones but ones that are always made in war. After bombing and shelling, the allies moved forward and bulldozed any remaining Iraqi troops entrenched to negate the use of the enemy’s land mines. They buried them dead or alive. The decency of the man Cantwell never made peace with this even as the tank officer rolled forward and did his job. There was soon a pile up of equipment due to a land mine concern. The Australian Major got out of his Bradley and walked through the dangerous area to map out a course for the congestion to get through all the while knowing he could potentially be blown to pieces. There were other adventures along the way. The Bradley crew often finding themselves alone in the Desert trying to get a picture of what was going on and relay it to fighting forces. Death was a constant and all around. Cantwell still can’t get the image out of his head of an Iraqi hand sticking up through the sand. There were moments of humour though including one where the Officer aimed up on a Scorpion with his pistol before his British Squaddie killed it with a shovel.

Major Cantwell returned home a bonafide war veteran to an Army that had them in short supply. The Gulf War had been a success and the quickness of the 100 hour ground war led to much ignorance as to how dangerous it had been. The bulk of Australian forces committed to the Gulf were Naval, people who knew what he had gone through were on the other side of the world but fortunately there were still some who remembered Vietnam and their own combat fatigue. Life and his career went on and he eventually found himself Commander of the 1st Brigade in Townsville. When a posting for Iraq came up he wondered if a deployment to that part of the world would lay some demons to rest. Brigadier General John Cantwell went to Iraq in 2006 as the Director of Strategic Operations in Headquarters Multi National Forces Iraq. He worked hard in the job and was duly rewarded with several accolades including becoming the first Australian to be promoted in the field to Major General in 60 years. There were other moments though which proved much harder. A shelling of his compound while he was on his phone to his wife in his room. The ground shaking, death possibly near telling your spouse that you love them while they are on the other side of the world would not have been possible decades ago but was something Jane and John went through in modern war. A missile went past him during another attack on the steps of a palace before and he and others moved forward to a market where several had been slain. The smell of the same perfume found at the scene will take him back there years later.

He was also Chief of Operations during the Victorian Bushfires in 2009 where 173 people died and 414 were injured. In 2010 he served as Commander of the Australian Forces in the Middle East Area of Operations (Joint Task Force 633). Regularly going out into the field to meet with troops and see firsthand what was going on. After a mistake had been made in the past with the return of an Australian soldier, Cantwell personally inspected every deceased. His tenure as Commander saw an increase in Australian fatalities in Afghanistan. 41 Australian soldiers have died while serving on Operations in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. In 2002 the first death occurred in Afghanistan, in 2007 there were 3, in 2008 there were 3, in 2009 there were 4. In 2010 Sappers of 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment Jacob Moreland, 21 and Darren Smith, 25 were killed by IEDs in June. Also in June, Privates Scott Palmer 27, Timothy Aplin 38, Benjamin Chuck 27 of 2nd Commando Regiment died when the U.S. Black Hawk they were on crashed during operations. In July, 23 year old Private Nathan Bewes of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment was killed by an IED. In August 29 year old Trooper Jason Brown of the SASR was shot during an engagement. Later in August 35 year old Grant Kirby and 21 year old Thomas Dale both Privates of 6RAR were killed by IED. On the 24th of August 2010 Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney of 6RAR was shot and killed during the Battle of Derapet. These were the soldiers who died during General Cantwell’s command of them and he made sure all of their bodies were returned safely to their families. It would be the final straw regarding his PTSD, Cantwell returned home and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his leadership but he sought help and effectively ended his military career.

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Following retirement in 2012 he has published two books Exit Wounds: One Australia’s War on Terror and Leadership in Action. The following is an extract from Exit Wounds about some of his feelings following Command of JTF633. “The rawness of the new memories sharpens images from the past. The old familiar demons invade my sleep and sometimes my waking hours. I see the hand of a man buried alive in Iraq. The thump and buzz of incoming artillery fire fill my ears. I am seized by the terror of leading soldiers across a dark, empty desert. My fingers feel the weight of a man’s head and I smell the stench of burnt flesh. The dread of death, so close, so immediate, hollows my chest, as it did when I forced shaking legs to walk past half-hidden mines. I am transported back to a Baghdad suburb where a car bomb in a marketplace left a little girl’s pink sandals floating in a pool of blood. I taste bile in my throat at the realisation that I have ordered men down a road that killed them. I feel like I’m losing it.Exit Wounds is an important and fascinating read of his time in war but also the beginning of his journey of dealing with PTSD. Mr Cantwell remains an advocate for better mental health care for Australian veterans and is Patron or Ambassador of several organisations promoting this.

Major General John Cantwell, thank you for your service to the military and nation of Australia, thank you for your continued service to veterans and I wish you peace and happiness and many years of it to come.

-Lloyd Marken

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MAJOR RICHARD WINTERS

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Major Richard (Dick) Winters passed away 02JAN2011 aged 92 years.

He was a paratrooper and an officer during World War II with the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne. Most notably as a platoon commander within and then company commander of Easy Company who were the subject of the bestselling book written by historian Stephen E. Ambrose and published in the early 1990s. The book was then adapted into a television miniseries, it was called Band of Brothers.

Easy Company exploits as a result are well known including those of Winters himself who was often noted as a commander who led from the front. On D-Day he landed in France without a weapon or equipment “Not a good way to start begin a war.” he later recalled. Later that day he led twelve men in a successful attack of a German gun battery consisting of roughly 50 enemy and four 105mm Howitzers. The Howitzers were firing onto a causeway exit at Utah Beach where US troops had landed. The successful attack saved countless Allied lives. It’s still taught at West Point as a textbook assault on a fixed position. His war was just beginning, he later served in Operation Market Garden and was Battalion XO when the 101 famously held the line at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. Sgt. Floyd Talbert, one of the many men under his command wrote to him a the end of the war “I would follow you into hell. When I was with you I knew everything was absolutely under control.” On the evening of 06JUN1944 Lt Winters lay down to sleep and made a promise to himself: if he lived through the war, he was going to find an isolated farm somewhere and spend the remainder of his life in peace and quiet. He did. Happily married for 52 years he leave behind his wife Ethel Estoppey and two children.

Talbert once wrote to him later in life “Do you remember the time you were leading us into Carentan? Seeing you in the middle of that road wanting to move was too much!…Dick this can go on and on. I have never discussed these things with anyone on this earth. The things we had are damn near sacred to me.” Talbert was and is right. Some things are sacred.

Some people too.

-Lloyd Marken

THE YEAR THAT WAS 2016 ON LLOYD MARKEN WORDPRESS

This post is the concluding chapter to my best hit adverts from earlier in 2016, which every four months would track changing statistics. First up the United States of America had the most views this year taking over Australia’s lead from the year previous. British views also saw a sharp uptick almost knocking Australia into third. Canada followed in fourth I’m pleased to see and Spain and Brazil battled it out for fifth with Spain ultimately proving victorious.

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Top 10 Most Views by Country

  1. The United States of America                                                                                     1,712 Views
  2. Australia                                                                                                                              1,145 Views
  3. The United Kingdom                                                                                                      1,120 Views
  4. Canada                                                                                                                                 312 Views
  5. Spain                                                                                                                                     181 Views
  6. Brazil                                                                                                                                     118 Views
  7. Germany                                                                                                                             117 Views
  8. France                                                                                                                                  103 Views
  9. New Zealand                                                                                                                     78 Views
  10. India                                                                                                                                      43 Views

 

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Out of 57 posts published for the year the following 25 got the most views. I’m happy to see so many views for the post on the Kibeho massacre. That story should never be forgotten and those who were there should always be thanked for what they endured and accomplished. In 2015 the blog started to grow with 1,609 views, 333 visitors, 23 Likes and 30 comments. In 2016 the blog received 5,673 views, 3,206 visitors, 546 Likes and 751 comments. This was helped in no small part thanks to the support and interest from my fellow bloggers.

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Top 25 Most Viewed Posts 2016

  1. Captains Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                   133 Views
  2. Lloyd Marken: Sunshine Blogger Award                                                                 104 Views
  3. The Heroes of Kibeho                                                                                                    97 Views
  4. Eye in the Sky Is Pure Perfection                                                                               91 Views
  5. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople Turns Up a New Zealand Gem                        87 Views
  6. South Vietnamese General Ngo Quang Truong’s War                                        81 Views
  7. 10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART IV: FLAXTON MILL ROAD TO                       67 Views MAPLETON FALLS AND BACK AGAIN
  8. A Quick Word to my Sponsors                                                                                    59 Views
  9. Bad Moms is Pretty Bloody Good                                                                               59 Views
  10. Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds                                        56 Views
  11. 10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART V: LAKE BAROON TO                                      56 Views KONDALILLA FALLS
  12. Youth is Wasted on the Old                                                                                         55 Views
  13. Star Wars has Returned to Cinemas and Our Hearts                                           53 Views
  14. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will to Live                                                                52 Views
  15. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was that V All About?!) 50 Views Superman Rant
  16. Sully: The Man in the Air                                                                                               48 Views
  17. Star Trek: Beyond Covers Familiar Ground                                                             48 Views
  18. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is Papa Foxtrot Gulf                                                          46 Views
  19. The Big Short: A Comedy to Get Angry About                                                        43 Views
  20. Finding Dory Fails to Find All of Pixar’s Former Inspiration                             42 Views
  21. Birth Days                                                                                                                           42 Views
  22. Love and Friendship: Too Sorely Needed Attributes                                            40 Views
  23. Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times                                                              40 Views
  24. A Brave New World with New Ghostbusters                                                           40 Views
  25. A Couple of Nice Guys to Spend Time With                                                             39 Views

One of the most interesting things I take away from the stats is that sometimes what I don’t think are my best posts still get interest if the subject matter appeals and in particular if there is very little on the web about something. Take for example General Ngo Quang Truong. Also if a film is popular a post about it will retain interest with examples including Finding Dory or Star Trek: Beyond.Whereas I’ll be sitting here hoping more Sully, Brooklyn and Youth.

Top 10 Most Liked Posts 2016

10. Love and Friendship: Too Sorely Needed Attributes                                               14 Likes

9. Lloyd Marken: Sunshine Blogger Award                                                                     14 Likes

8. Barce: Where Right and Glory Led During World War II                                        14 Likes

7. ABFAB Still Fabulous Enough Darling                                                                         14 Likes

6. Bad Moms Is Pretty Bloody Good                                                                                   14 Likes

20161030_1641215. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part VII: Mt Bithongabel and 3rd Times a Charm         14 Likes

Image result for superman the movie4. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will To Live                                                                   15 Likes

16193. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton and Back         21 Likes

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2. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople Turns up a New Zealand Gem                            24 Likes

Image result for captain reg saunders1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                           51 Likes

For Your Consideration

Finally I’ll quick just give a shout out to the posts for better or worse that I take some pride in writing last year.

My film reviews for Youth (mortality), Brooklyn (my windswept and interesting younger sister), Eye in the Sky (war), Deadpool (comedy) and Eddie the Eagle (the drudgery of working live compared to dreaming dreams).

My short story Birth Days, which received some positive feedback which just meant the world to me.

Out of the 7 hiking posts I put up I am most sentimental about the one where Karen and I first discovered Mapleton Falls of which later we would take her grandfather to and hiking with my sister to Kondalilla Falls.1619

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My posts about The Heroes of Kibeho and Victoria Cross Winner Corporal Bryan Budd I hope struck a nerve. It meant a great deal to me that Sgt Terry Pickard who was Kibeho commented on it.

If you have a particular favourite please let me know and I will endeavour to maybe write more like that although in the end all writers are stuck writing what best compels them if they are to have any chance of amusing others. I feel very blessed to be part of my small blogging community, I don’t always get to read as much as I used to and wonder how they manage to keep up with my output. A particular highlight for me this year was receiving a Sunshine Blogger Award. Effectively the awards are chain letters but I don’t care – I was chuffed and tell everybody now about my award winning blog. I am very grateful and thank you all.

-Lloyd Marken

BARCE: WHERE RIGHT AND GLORY LED DURING WORLD WAR II

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The town flag of Barce. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

The artillery unit at Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera Qld is 1 Regiment Royal Australian Artillery. They have deployed gunners over the past decade on secondment to the British Army in Helmland Province, Afghanistan. 105 Battery is part of the Regiment which fired in support of 6RAR at the Battle of Long Tan. The regiment has a long proud history dating back to World War One. However their lines are named Barce and in a building within those lines hangs a flag in memory of victory won long ago in another war. 2/1st Field Regiment was raised on 31OCT1939 in Ingleburn, NSW. They were the namesake of 1 Field  Regiment from World War I which saw action at Gallipoli and in France. 2/1 Field were sent to North Africa to fight with the 6th Australian division which was the first of the Australian divisions to be raised and sent to fight in this new war. It was in North Africa that something truly unique took place for an artillery unit.

 

05FEB1941 D Troop was sent forward to occupy a position with an OP overlooking the town of Barce and the coastal road. Its object was to engage any enemy moving westward from Barce but htat escape route was devoid of all signs of life. The town of Barce was alive though and the troop commander Captain Vickery looked in vain for the customary white surrender flag. He bracketed the town, one round plus, one round minus, still no white flag. He shortened the plus range a little, fired and up went a white flag. Lieutenant Lester and four O.R.s (Other Ranks) clambered down the escarpment, and were met by a group from the town carrying a white and the town flag which they handed to our boys, they in turn accepted the surrender on behalf of 2/1 FLD Regt and the Army of the Nile. That town flag resides at the Barce Lines today.

Later on a more formal surrender was taken by the 2 I/C Major Young. At 7:3opm the town was handed over to 6 Div Provost Company. During its short period of control, and with only the threat of its guns somewhere up on the escarpment, the Regiment supressed a Bedouin uprising. It also took great delight in arranging a formal welcome for the infantry, the 2/8th Battalion, when they entered the town. Barce was the last town of any size to be taken before Benghazi.

The story that circulated in the regiment, was that this was the first time in the history of the British Empire that Regiment of Field Artillery had captured and taken surrender of a town without any assistance from any other branch of the armed services.

Disputing or confirming this is irrelevant to the true significance of the battle.

Bardia which was Australia’s first major battle of World War II had just taken place and 2/1st Field Regiment had served on the gun line throughout the entire battle. Taking Tobruk from the Italians had been next. 2/1st Field Regiment would go on to fight in Greece and through two campaigns in New Guinea. By war’s end 77 members had been wounded and 33 members had died.

But as the men of 2/1 Field Regiment went to bed on the night of the 5th of February, 1941 they could sleep having taken a town with no deaths of their own, the enemy or civilian.

It was a great victory.

-Lloyd Marken

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Bir Asluj, Palestine, 12th May 1940. Guns of 2/1st Field Regiment during practice shoot. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial.

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Near Bardia. Gun Grew of No. 3 Gun, E Troop, 2/1st Field Regiment, Relax after Christmas Dinner. L to R, Gnr Trouville, Gnr Morrow, Bdr Hitcher, Gnr Sing. In front are Bdr Elliot and Sgt Firth. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial.

 

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Near Bardia, Cyrenaica. Underground Command Post of I Battery, 2/1st Field Regiment before the Battle of Bardia, December 1940. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial.

NEAR BARDIA - A GUN CREW OF B SUBSECTION OF 2/1ST FIELD REGIMENT. LEFT TO RIGHT: SERGEANT D.A. JACK: LANCE BOMBARDIER LOPEZ: GUNNER W.A. MOSS: BOMBARDIER WOOD: GUNNER T.H. O'NEILL AND (STANDING) ...

Christmas dinner at their gun site, near Bardia. Christmas Day, 1940. L to R: Sgt D. A. Jack, L Bdr Lopez,  Gnr W. A. Moss, Bdr Wood, Gnr T. H. O’Neill and standing Gnr Roach. (Negative F. Hurley.)

 

“E” Troop, 2/1 Field Regiment in position near the Bardia Front. (Negative by F. Hurley.)

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No. 5 Gun. E Troop, near Bardia Christmas Day 1940. Gnr Hillcoat, Gnr O’Sullivan, Bdr Frankfort, Gnr Krumback. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial.

Haywood, E.V. 1959. Six Years in Support : History of the 2/1 Field Regiment. Angus and Robertson.

SOME STATS FROM 2016

This is just a quick stocktake for the second quarter of the year to see where we stand heading into the last third of the year. Think of it as less a self-congratulatory pat on the back and more a shameless plug for previous posts.

Image result for united kingdomConsistently most of my views come from the USA ( who overtook the top spot from Australian readers early this year and don’t look like handing it back anytime soon), Australia, the UK, Canada and then Spain. Early this year Brazil powered ahead to No.5 but Spain has shot back in the past couple of weeks. Near the end of August Great Britain had the most views for the month but then the world turned, the East Coast woke up and America took out the No.1 spot just like they did in the Olympics. I wonder if the U.K. could take out a month though in the future.

Top 5 Most Views by Country 2016

  1. United States 1,209 Views
  2. Australia 922 Views
  3. United Kingdom 811 Views
  4. Canada 220 Views
  5. Spain 122 Views

Top 10 Most Viewed Posts 2016

  1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army 129 Views
  2. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection 77 Views
  3. The Heroes of Kibeho 76 Views
  4. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton Falls and Back Again 66 Views
  5. South Vietnamese General Ngo Quang Truong’s War 56 Views
  6. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part V: Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls 55 Likes
  7. Youth is Wasted on the Old 54 Views
  8. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will to Live 52 Views
  9. Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds 45 Views
  10. Stars Wars Has Return to our Screen and Our Hearts 45 Views

Top 15 Most Liked Posts

15. A Couple of Nice Guys to Spend Time and A Brave New World with New Ghostbusters

Rounding out the Top 15 are the last two film reviews with 10 Likes equally. On paper one is a old school masculine driven film and the other a revived franchise that re-casts women as the central heroes. Both have similarities though, in The Nice Guys a young daughter is usually the most sensible and smartest person in the room despite the guys loudly throwing punches and shooting guns, she maybe the one who makes the biggest difference. Both are also about people having to face overwhelming challenges to find out who they really are and take up that mantle. In one two damaged but good men discover they can do the right thing and in the other women surrounded by naysayers prove they maybe the only ones who can save us from Ghosts. Sadly I found The Nice Guys a delight despite a third act finale that didn’t quite take off for me but Ghostbusters was another example of a tired old regular reboot blockbuster. Not bad by any stretch but lacking the laughs and confident subversion of Paul Feig’s previous films.

14. Hail, Caesar! A Lovely Film For Those Who Loves Films 10 Likes

As a film buff, Hail, Caesar! may speak to me more than the average cinema goer. There’s the usual clever Coen dialogue to be found here and even a lot of depth underneath the surface. I doubt it will go down as one of their classics, it feels very much like an inbetweener (yes I know this isn’t a real word) for them but I liked it quite a bit and you can’t deny what the heart wants – the heart wants.

13. Lance Corporal Michelle Norris MC 11 Likes

Those who may say women can’t serve in combat may want to look up Cpl Norris. A 19 year old medic when deployed to Iraq she became the first female soldier ever to be awarded the Military Cross. Subsequently 3 other female soldiers have earned the Gallantry Award.

 

 

 

 

 

12. 10 Pics form the Sticks Part V: Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls 11 Likes

1711Part of an ongoing series of blogs about hikes I’ve been on, I gained confidence from the excellent Cindy Bruchman’s series Five Shots to post these and they seem to have gone down well. When my sister came over from England with her Canadian partner I decided they would enjoy the spectacular views of The Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. That day was even  more enjoyable for the opportunity to get acquainted with them. A wonderful memory.

11. South Vietnam General Ngo Quang Truong’s War 11 Likes

It may surprise some to find out that the South Vietnamese military had one particularly good leader who was respected by all sides and would eventually turn back a North Vietnamese invasion in 1962 when mass American ground troops had left South East Asia. He lost the war he fought and his country but he never stopped rising to every occasion including re-settling in America with his family and making a new life.

 

10. The Year of Blogging Dangerously 11 Likes

Well this is awkward, this was a similarly themed post from April and includes shouts outs to reviews from previous years like my love for About Time, Craig Ferguson and David Letterman.

 

 

9. Birth Days 11 Likes

A little short story I wrote for university that played with narrative structure. Essentially relating birth moments throughout a lifetime with certain patterns emerging again and again over the years. It means a great deal to me all the positive feedback I’ve received for it.

8. Alice Going Through the Looking Glass and the Sequel Motions 12 Likes

Not a particularly good film or good review but it’s nice to have fans.

 

 

 

 

7. Love and Friendship: Too Sorely Needed Attributes 13 Likes

Image result for love and friendship movieWhat I like to call a clean review. Fairly concise, not too boring to read hopefully and sums up what is good about a pretty decent movie. The number of likes probably reflects an interest in the film itself which has been getting good notices.

 

 

6. Central Intelligence – There’s Worse Films Out There 13 Likes

I felt inspired writing this review to touch upon this guy I knew in high school who became a bit of a success story. The film itself didn’t bowl me over but there were funny moments to be had and The Rock and Kevin Hart are two very likeable star personalities who played well off each other.

5. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will To Live 14 Likes

Image result for amy adams vanity fairThe film depicts the character of Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller and Deadshot very well. I’m intrigued to see a better film with these performers playing off the dynamics of their core relationships. That unfortunately is not what this film was and a rant and Amy Adams Vanity Fairs photo shoots ensured. People seemed to enjoy reading which is a relief because it was one of my longer rants of late.

4. Star Trek: Beyond Covers Familiar Ground 14 Likes

star trek star review trek beyondStar Trek: Beyond has been well received by most critics and fans so pay to attention to my opinion but here it is for those that are interested and it seems to have intrigued some.

3. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople Turns up a New Zealand Gem 20 Likes

Out of the 2016 films I’ve reviewed so far the best ones have been Eye in the Sky and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Those that have seen the film seem to have been enchanted by it and that good will meant people were just happy to share their joy of the film here on this post as well. It really is a gem, be sure to check it out.

2. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton Falls and Back Again 20 Likes

1619Karen and I went hiking one day up at the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walks and came across an echidna in the wild which was a real treat. I also touch upon a trip we took with her grandfather to the same area not long before he passed away.

1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army 51 Likes

Blame GP Cox and his amazing blog which started about retelling the experiences of his father as a Paratrooper in the Pacific during World War II and now is just a fine source of history from that period. When GP posts something within 24 hours he receives 100 Likes, goodness knows how many views. He’s built this following up over time with fine consistent work and consistent supportive interest in the blogs of his followers. As soon as he reblogged on his site my post about the first known Aboriginal to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army – the stats on that post shot up. Captain Reg Saunders was a war hero who endured much upon his return home and always overcame the racial indignities of his time with humour and resilience. We could learn a lot from his example.

 

For Your Consideration

I don’t think of myself as a particularly good writer but nonetheless sometimes I’m excited by what I come up with. Other times I can’t help but feel it is a bit messy and has nothing of interest to add. My review for Captain America: Civil War for example lacks any real hook. I list a few things I like and what narrative threads may have consequences throughout the franchise but it’s a joyless review for a film that was quite joyful. Suicide Squad an imperfect frustrating film on the other hand led to a funny review (an attempt at being funny anyway) and one that was relatively painless to write. Here are the posts that I’ve enjoyed compiling and seeing reactions to that you may have missed.

Cpl Bryan Budd VC

Published March 29 3 Likes

article-1216591-025CB87C000004B0-562_470x423[1]The closing paragraph I’m particularly proud of but at the end of the day this soldier’s story tells of extraordinary courage and sacrifice and should never be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

Eye in the Sky Is Pure Perfection

Published March 29 8 Likes

The first great film of 2016 has a lot to say without clamping down on one agenda either way. It will spark debate, discussion and thoughts about many aspects of modern warfare but in the end it is a poignant tale about one girl selling bread on a street corner and whether she will survive to see tomorrow.

 

Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times

Published March 21 6 Likes

Brooklyn maybe my favourite film of last year, maybe not the best I’m quite happy Spotlight won the Oscar, but my heart literally swells right now thinking about Brooklyn. I felt like I went to three different funerals while watching it. It’s about falling in love, chasing dreams and planting your feet about who you and where you’re headed in life. It made me think a great deal about my little sister and how much I love her.

Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds

Published March 17 6 Likes 

I went for broke trying to be funny here and I’m quite happy with the results. It’s the first time I got to write about Jennifer Garner and I hold no shame in that. People have gone cold on the film already saying it’s not that original and the marketing sold it. Fuck them. Any idiot could say the filmmakers edited around a standard origin story but there’s wit here that you just don’t get in many blockbusters anymore and it punches above its weight in terms of budget and action sequences. In a summer of disappointments Deadpool stands tall against all odds as the little blockbuster that could AND DID.

Youth Is Wasted on the Old

Published January 10 3 Likes

Youth didn’t light up the box office or feature much in the end of year award shows. For me though Youth stays in the mind for a long time after. Michael Caine gives another stellar performance as an ageing composer facing up to what he’ll do with the time he has left and what he has lost along the way.

Thanks again to all those reading and have a great weekend.

-Lloyd Marken

LANCE CORPORAL MICHELLE NORRIS MC

The 11th of June 2006 changed British military history but for those that were there it was just about doing the job and taking care of their own.

Growing up in the midlands Pte Norris wanted to be a soldier. She applied to join Artillery but narrowly missed passing her fitness exam. A year of college later she aced the fitness exam but chose the Royal Army Medical Corps. 9 months of training followed before being posted to Germany where she put her hand up to go to Iraq.

She was attached to the 1st Battalion Princess of Wales Regiment, the only woman amongst 300 men. There she met Colour Sgt Ian Page who was having his birthday shortly after she got there. ” When he told me how old he was, I told him he was old enough to be my father, and he said don’t be cheeky, but after that, I always called him dad and he always called me daughter,” Pte Morris explains. During a night operation in Al-Amarah with Warrior vehicles the British forces were attacked. ” I heard a big bang up front and the driver said the commander [Page] had been hit. I asked if he was okay and nobody spoke. I told the other guys to let me out. I managed to climb up the outside of the vehicle and down through the turret. ” Pte Morris recalls. While she climbed up the side of the Warrior she was fired upon by snipers. One bullet hit her rucksack. ” I suppose I knew there were bullets, but I didn’t know how many and you don’t think, I need to be brave, you think, “I just need to get to him.‟.” explains Morris of her courage under fire.

She found Sgt Page who had been shot in the mouth, looking steadily upwards at her, trying to tell her what to do, staying calm as the shock of a gunshot wound to his face spread through his body. This 18 year old 5foot tall rookie was just eight weeks into her first deployment and had never treated anything more serious than an infected mosquito bite. ” I was worried that I would forget my training, but just looking at him lying there, it all fell into place and I knew I could do it.” says Morris. She administered first aid for three minutes with rounds landing all around her before other soldiers helped her drag Page inside the vehicle.

Following a medical evac by Lynx helicopter Sgt Page went on to make a full recovery. Her commanding officer recommended that she receive a medal for her bravery and she became the first woman ever to receive the Military Cross . The Military Cross is the third highest gallantry medal in the British armed forces equivalent to our Medal of Gallantry.

Lance Corporal Morris MC still serves in the British Army today.

-Lloyd Marken

SOUTH VIETNAMESE GENERAL NGO QUANG TRUONG’S WAR

General Ngo Quang Truong was born to a well to do family in the Mekong Delta in 1929 and after attending college he went to officer school and received his commission in 1954 serving the next 12 years in the elite airborne brigade which he would come to command. He first saw combat in 1955 to eliminate river pirates from the surrounding area of Saigon.

In the 1960s the war with north would heat up and Colonel Truong as he was then scored a series of victories against the communists. This included a period of time when a US advisor was assigned to the Airborne by the name of Major Schwarzkopf who would later as General Schwarzkopf command forces in the Persian Gulf War. He observed that Truong was the most brilliant tactical commander I‘d ever known. – Simply by visualizing the terrain and drawing on his experience fighting the enemy for 15 years, Truong showed an uncanny ability to predict what they were going to do,” Schwarzkopf wrote. He recalled a battler where Truong clearly anticipated the enemy‘s movements throughout the day. At the end of it they had captured large stockpiles of weapons, killed many of the enemy for few losses of their own. It was a great victory and Schwarzkopf was happy but Truong sat to the side emotionless smoking his cigarettes. He had been fighting the communists a long time.

Troung a Buddhist was put in charge of quelling demonstrations by Buddhists protesting military control of the government. He was not comfortable with his job but he carried it out professionally and was permanently given command of 1st Infantry Division. A poor unit before his command of it other noted American generals of the Vietnam war referred to his division as equal to any American unit.

Unlike some South Vietnamese generals who had grown rich as they ascended the ranks, Truong was impeccably honest and, according to a close friend, led a “spartan and ascetic” life. Lieutenant General Cushman recalled that the general didn’t own a suit, and that his wife kept pigs behind his modest quarters in the military compound in Can Tho. As Cushman further described Truong, “He was imaginative and always looked for ways to improve his troops’ living conditions and family life.”

A humble man, Truong was an unselfish individual devoted to his profession. He was fiercely loyal to his subordinates, and was known for taking care of his soldiers, often flying through heavy fire to stand with them in the rain and mud during enemy attacks. He treated everyone the same and did not play favorites. There is a story that he refused to respond to a request to give his nephew a noncombat assignment, only to have the nephew later die in battle.

During the Tet Offensive of 1968, General Truong commanded the 1st Division during some of the war’s bloodiest fighting in Hue. Two nights before the offensive began, Truong, at his head-quarters in the old Imperial capital, sensed something amiss and put his troops on alert. When the night passed uneventfully, he dismissed his advisers but kept his troops ready.

His Hac Bao reaction company managed to hold his division headquarters compound and from there he directed the battle calling for reinforcements and directing them where to strike. Together, the U.S Marines and South Vietnamese soldiers and marines fought house to house to force the enemy out of the area. As usual, Truong had performed magnificently, directing his troops in a calm but charismatic fashion. Lieutenant General Cushman, who became his close friend after working with him, described Truong’s performance during the battle: “He survived with the enemy all around him. They never took his command post, but they took the rest of the Citadel.”

His greatest achievement ultimately occurred in 1972 during the Easter Offensive. The North Vietnamese launched an attacking force of 14 infantry divisions, 26 separate regiments, 1,200 troops and more than 120,000 troops. They succeeded in taking their goal of Quang Tri the first provincial capital to fall and pushed farther south.

Realising what was at stake General Truong was ordered to take command of I Corps by President Nguyen Van Thieu. Arriving in the area his mere presence gave new hope to the South Vietnamese troops. He devised a comprehensive defence in depth to halt the North Vietnamese Army‘s advance which would buy him time as he retrained South Vietnamese units that had been battered during the retreat and re-equipped them with new American gear using an accelerated training pro-gram. Launching a counter offensive in May with 3 divisions and US airpower and naval shelling Troung defended South Vietnam from invasion. It was a deliberate and slow process, but Truong’s forces routed six NVA divisions to retake Quang Tri on September 16.

Sadly it was not to be so again three years later. The North Vietnamese returned and defences in the Central Highlands collapsed. Truong was ordered to defend Hue and set about doing it but then a week followed of debate and accusations conflicting orders followed. Truong was ordered to abandon Hue until at the last minute this was countermanded. Because of conflicting orders, lack of preparation and collapse of morale the withdrawal from Hue became a disaster. Reaching Da Nang Truong tried to direct an evacuation by sea but panic had set in.

As Da Nang fell, he and his corps staff swam through the surf to the rescuing fleet of South Vietnamese boats. Truong was devastated by the loss of his forces, particularly his beloved ARVN 1st Division. Upon arriving in Saigon, he was reportedly hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. A U.S. Army officer who had worked closely with Truong heard what happened, tracked him down and arranged for his family to leave on an American ship as Saigon fell to the Communists. The family was split for some time before being all tracked down in America and reunited. After reuniting, Truong and his family moved to Falls Church, Va.

Many Australian and American troops came from the war in Vietnam which was known as the first war our countries had lost. Not necessarily accurate but it was hard thing to deal with for some of our troops. The one thing we did not have to deal with that Truong like so many of his fellow South Vietnamese soldiers had to was that they could not go home. They had not just been on the losing side of a war that they had fought for so long and given up so much for but they had also lost their countries, their homes. True to his character though Truong got on with living a good life in his adopted country. Once settled there, he wrote several historical studies on the Vietnam War for the U.S. Army Centre of Military History. In 1983, the same year that he became a U.S. citizen, he moved to Springfield, Va. He worked as a computer analyst for the Association of American Railroads for 10 years until he retired in 1994. He died due to cancer in 2007. Shortly after his death, the Virginia Legislature passed a Joint Resolution “Celebrating the Life of Ngo Quang Truong.”

Schwarzkopf wrote of him “He did not look like my idea of a military genius: only five feet seven…very skinny, with hunched shoulders and a head that seemed too big for his body….His face was pinched and intense…and there was always a cigarette hanging from his lips. Yet he was revered by his officers and troops—and feared by those North Vietnamese commanders who knew of his ability.”

-Lloyd Marken