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

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The Year of Blogging Dangerously

002I studied in the Creative Industries and like a lot who do it is not now where I work. A few years ago my sister who blogs suggested I should too. I guess to have a creative outlet and maybe to practice my craft and build a portfolio. Sadly I don’t think I’ve really become a better writer but I have become a happier person. I popped my blogging cherry in November 2013 writing about my favourite film of that year – About Time.

Nighy is an actor so beloved that when he shows up in a movie you can’t help but smile. His first line had me grinning even though he wasn’t saying anything funny. I was just so happy to see and hear him. Such an effect from an actor makes him perfect casting for the role of the father. The world loves Nighy and that love will give the film absolute weight later on when he tells Tim what he used the gift of time travel to do with his life. Because if you’re a father and you can travel through time that is exactly what you would do. This is one of the year’s best.

There were no pictures and I didn’t check stats, there were errors galore and it all went on a bit too long but I had expressed something inside myself and enjoyed the process. It was only a matter of time but eventually I blogged again when Craig Ferguson and David Letterman left their late night programs.

When Craig Ferguson’s last show aired in the middle of the night I stood up alone in my living room in my boxers as Craig finished singing and the audience applauded. I smiled sheepishly knowing how stupid I was behaving but wanting to feel connected in some way.
No doubt I’ll be on my feet again this Thursday. Because that’s what you do when legends retire. You stand up and you applaud.

At that point I headed back to university for a short course and had more time on my hands. Being back around creative people with creative pursuits was terribly rejuvenating even if I regret not making the most of my time in the course. My fifth post was about The Martian and within 24 hours I saw these little cubes pop up on my post. busyk AntVicino cinetactic

 

A film about a stranded astronaut rife with 70s tracks demands a track from Bowie to be used and The Martian answers the call better than I could have hoped. The choice of Major Tom would have been welcome if too on the nose. Instead Starman begins right where it needs to in arguably the best moments of the film. The crew who left Watney behind circle around Earth to pick up supplies and sling shot back towards him. This enables the crew to communicate with families hundreds of miles away from them but as close as they have been in months before returning to rescue their stranded crew member. It is a heroic gesture full of sacrifice but the film plays the scene as one of unbridled joy. “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

I had a couple of followers before and my sister always shared my posts on Facebook but this was something new. Somebody was communicating with me specifically, 3 people in fact from AntVicino from Oakland, Cinetactic from the Philippines and Busy K from New York City. Another milestone. Next I wrote about the James Bond series and little boxes appeared again. I started to wonder if it was possible to always get one like when I posted. I also checked out the likers and followers and started following people myself which made the reader take on a new importance. Views and visitors though always fascinated me proving no matter how small the response people were seeing my work. I don’t particularly need validation, I’m still at heart just somebody writing About Time because I love it so much and have to express it, but it is very enjoyable to have feedback and to have interest in your blog.

As the year closed I wondered if a lot of views were garnered by me reading my posts when I was logged out. In any event it’s been a year since I started seriously blogging and in that time my followers, likes and comments have grown. In March when Cindy Bruchman announced I would be co-hosting her Lucky 13 Film Club in April it doubled my interaction with the blogging community. I was very lucky to be involved in something so well liked and with a blogger so well respected that my likes, comments and followers probably doubled in that time but so did the blogs I follow and the blogs I comment on or like. It’s been a very enjoyable experience to feel more a sense of community than ever. Having branched out from film reviews to posts about hikes I’ve taken and military biographies I wrote for an old newsletter, I finally bit the bullet and put forward a short story to read for that community. When you write a film review, the focus tends to be on your opinion and whether it’s shared by others. When you write a story though it becomes a bit more personal. People are focusing on you now. I’m touched to say that my fellow bloggers have been kind and it is a huge relief that they seemed to enjoy the story. So as I celebrate one year of regularly blogging I thought I’d reflect on some interesting stats and which posts seem to have struck a nerve from 2016 so far. Think of it as a shamelessly greatest hits plug if you will and less so a chest thumping celebration from someone who really has a very small blog. May I just say to my regular viewers, followers, likers and commenters. Thank you for everything from the bottom of my heart and keep it coming.

 

You know I’m big in Brazil.

Last year the vast majority of my views came from Australia (over 1,500 which I assume includes mostly from me) with 51 from the U.K. and 39 from the U.S., 8 from Spain, 6 from Canada, 3 from Switzerland, 2 from Denmark, and 1 from France. Interestingly none from the Phillippines?

In 2016 so far it’s 516 Australian views (I don’t think those are mine), 366 American, 314 British, 78 Canadian, 59 Spanish and chomping at the bit to get into the Top 5 Brazil has 52 views.

Most Likes

  1. Birth Days                                                                                                                   9 Likes
  2. A Reblog of Jeff Bridges: The Lucky 13 Film Club April 13                            8 Likes
  3. Hail Caesar! A Lovely Film for those Who Love Films                                  8 Likes
  4. Ex Machina                                                                                                                  7 Likes
  5. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part III: Lake Baroon to Delicia Road                     7 Likes
  6. Eddie the Eagles Soars Enough to Qualify                                                         7 Likes
  7. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection                                                                          6 Likes
  8. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant           6 Likes
  9. The Huntsman: An Unnecessary Sequel That Is Not Necessarily Bad      6 Likes
  10. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                 6 Likes

Most Viewed in 2016 So Far

 

10. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant

Published April 1 – 30 Views                                                                                                                                                            Less a film review than a full blooded rant. “Kicking off where that film ended with Bruce Wayne on the ground during the Metropolis battle trying desperately to reach his people in a Wayne Enterprises building in the best sequence of the whole film. The music and sound pounding in an Extreme Screen cinema has to be experienced as Bruce a highly capable mortal man commutes by helicopter then car then foot through the mayhem. His skills keep him alive getting out of the way of destruction repeatedly at the last second but his figure remains powerless in the face of such super beings. Bruce Wayne is also with the victims that we never really saw with Superman in the finale of the last film. It’s an inspired way to address criticism of the last film and set up the central beef Wayne has with Superman in this movie. It also well and truly proves that audiences can now see movies that fully evoke the horror and helplessness of September 11, 2001. Take that Al Qaeda!

9. Birth Days

Published April 24  – 30 Views

The Short Story I wrote, it is trying to communicate something about the randomness, cyclical nature and inevitability of life with spare sporadic writing. There’s a lot of jumping in and out of moments where you have to pick up hints of resolutions along the way. Once again I am very grateful for its reception. A week old and the only post I haven’t shared on Facebook, the number of views, likes and comments is really encouraging.

8. The Big Short: A Comedy to Get Angry About                                                                         

Published January 19 – 31 Views  

Arguably the funniest of the award season darlings last year. ” This is the film’s greatest conceit; it’s inversion of what happened. The majority of Americans got ripped off and screwed over by the Global Financial Crisis! Then it spread to the rest of the world too! The Big Short doesn’t follow suckers or losers though, it follows winners, people smart and brave enough to see what was going down and the film makes us feel included in their wisdom and plight when we weren’t. I don’t say this cynically, I think this is the best movie ever made about the Global Financial Crisis and it will reach the broadest audience and make them feel the most about it as a result of this approach. The film is never preachy but there are few lines sprinkled throughout that hit home not just about the financial sector but maybe even our society at large. There are montages of photos to remind us of current events and major pop culture distractions at the time. One great sequence shows many characters leaving a hotel and their current wealth defined by the car they leave in.

7. Ex Machina: A Small Film with Big Ideas 

Published January 27 – 31 Views 

My first post to get over five likes which I means I have to click on the word bloggers to have them all appear. Sadly such things give me a thrill. A real gem of a movie that not everybody has seen yet. “How each audience member reacts to each character may say as much about themselves as it does about the characters and certainly one of the pleasures of the film is seeing these very different creatures bounce off each other. The movie enjoys playing with the ideas of who is being tested, is anybody else maybe a robot, who is sympathetic or being dishonest and just where this all may lead? I wouldn’t dare spoil it, it is nice to not be sure of a film’s outcome and yet also at the end be satisfied with it.

6. Deadpool: Finally A Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds

Published March 17 – 31 Views

Since the film revelled in meta humour I had a go at trying something different with this review. It was a lot of fun.” A few years ago Deadpool would have been subverting a genre the average movie goer didn’t know inside and out. It turns out my ex-wife was right, timing is everything although I think she was talking about foreplay rather than motion picture releases and box office success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times

Published March 21 – 32 Views

It’s always  nice when a piece of your writing that you particularly like seems to go down well with others. Of the film reviews that have done particularly well there often seems to be a correlation to how much I put my own personal thoughts, opinions and experiences into it. Not always but often. 🙂 I was thinking about my little sister when I wrote this. ” That seat at the table never stops feeling empty but the person missing is sitting at another table across the seas and they are loved.. and they are home there too. This is a great movie.

4. Star Wars Has Returned to Cinemas and Our Hearts                                                            

Published January 13 – 42 Views

Again more a spoiler filled rant than a review to the biggest film of last year. The film’s popularity may have something to do with this. ” Han Solo to me is still roguish in this one but with age and a son has come vulnerability and real stakes for the smuggler. I’ve seen the film four times and every time Leia says “Luke is a Jedi…you’re his father.” I tear up. There has been a lot of talk about how Han Solo should have died in an epic way taking on many bad guys or sacrificing himself to save someone’s life. That’s the thing though he does die in an epic way to save someone’s life…to save Ben…to save his son’s.

3. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection 

Published March 29 – 43 Views

The first great film of 2016 is certainly garnering a lot of attention. “Missiles hovering high in the sky waiting for civilians at trade deals to come and answer their phones. Boys selling cheap plastic buckets to act as a cover story for an agent while he operates multi-million dollar miniature drones to fly inside a safe house. Bread in a wood fired oven potentially being a death sentence. Gavin Hood’s film powerfully conveys a brave new world with the same old truths of human nature. We want to raise our children in peace, go to work, come home and see them playing in our yards. But war has always existed and people die in wars.

2. Youth Is Wasted on the Old                                                                                                 

Published January 10 – 48 Views

 

Again another film that I really enjoyed and a review that I really enjoyed writing. It is a pleasure to have it be one of the most viewed posts. “ The whole cast is uniformly exemplary but Sir Michael Caine is here once again taking on the lead role and giving one of his best performances ever-worthy of an Oscar as anything else I’ve seen this year. Even at this stage of life Fred Ballinger has a character arc and grows. He learns there are things to be done, there is still strength in these arms and there is not a moment to lose. The firemen are coming. This is one of the year’s best.

1. The Heroes of Kibeho                                                                                                                

Published January 10 – 51 Views

Originally one of those pieces I wrote for my newsletter and then revamped for uni last year. There are no words to do justice to what was endured by all those who were there at Kibeho in April 1995. All I can say is I acknowledge them, I am proud of them and I wish them peace. If there is a highlight of doing this blog, it may just be to have had Terry Pickard comment on this post. When I told my Mum that Terry Pickard had commented on my Kibeho post she enquired “Is he a blogger?”. I replied “No Mum…he was there.”

-Lloyd Marken

CAPTAIN REG SAUNDERS OF THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY

Two decades before he was recognised as a citizen of his country he fought for it in two wars. He couldn’t vote in his own country where his people had been for thousands of years. This was nothing new. His father Walter (Chris) Saunders and uncle William Reginald Rawlings MM had done so before him in the Great War, the uncle not returning home. His family would continue to pay a cost for serving the nation. His brother Harry Saunders would die at Kokoda and his first marriage would not withstand his time away in Korea. What did change was that he became the first Aboriginal to be commissioned into the Australian Army going on to command 100 men in combat.

He was born in Victoria of the Gunditjmara people and worked in a sawmill from a young age. In 1940 he joined the Australian Imperial Force immediately displaying natural leadership skill, in 6 weeks he was promoted to Lance Corporal and within 3 months he had made Sergeant. He was posted to the 2/7th Battalion after training where his rank reverted to Private and he went to Benghazi and then the island of Crete. The 2/7th took part in the fighting around Canae and temporarily checked the German advance with a bayonet charge on 42nd street. As the Allies evacuated, Saunders’ unit fought rearguard actions and were left behind. Most were taken prisoner, a few hid out in the hills and caves of the islands relying on help from the locals. Saunders was one who evaded capture for 12 months and managed to escape rejoining the 2/7th.

He next fought in the Salamaua-Lae campaing where as a platoon sergeant he took command of the platoon when the platoon commander was wounded. Subsequently his commanding officer recommended that he receive a commission. This caused the Army some trepidation given “its special significance” but Saunders  completed sixteen weeks of training back in Australia and received his commission. During training he shared a tent with Victoria Cross winner Tom Derrick.

He returned to New Guinea and was a platoon commander during the Aitape-Wewak campaign with the 2/7th serving until the end of the war. He was hospitalised for 3 weeks after being wounded by Japanese gunfire at Maprik.

Rejected for service with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan, he was a shipping clerk and builder’s labourer following the war. With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea he rejoined the Army and was allocated to 3RAR rising to the lofty heights of Captain. He commanded C Company during the Battle of Kapyong April 22nd to April 25 (ANZAC Day) 1951. At Kapyong, a Brigade of United Nations Force stalled the advance of a whole Chinese division pivotally avoiding a breakthrough on the UN’s Command Central Front. 3RAR was subsequently awarded a US Presidential Unit Citation for their actions.

He oversaw training for national servicemen after returning from Korea but he left the Army in 1954 going to work first in the logging industry and then for the next decade in the Austral Bronze company. Saunders also became involved in the Returned and Services League. In 1967 be became an Aboriginal Liaison Officer in the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. In the Queen’s Birthday Honours of June 1971 his community work was recognised when he was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (Civil Division). He passed away in 1990 leaving behind 8 of his 10 children. Two had sadly predeceased him.

He was the first Aboriginal serviceman to command a Rifle Company, and was respected and popular with his men. His biographer and friend, Harry Gordon, an Australian journalist in Korea, wrote of him “He was accepted unreservedly by the men who served with him because false values do not flourish among front-line soldiers.”

-Lloyd Marken

THE HEROES OF KIBEHO

George Gittoes famous photo of Trooper Jon Church carrying a child to safety during the Massacre.

 

The floor was covered in blood and human waste. Some of the children were picking up corn out of the human waste and eating it. -Sergeant Terry Pickard

There was a gap between two walls where the RPA were shooting into the compound and someone was shooting out of the compound. A few rounds came through the gap in the wall. That’s when I knew I was risking my life to save and protect others. -Private Paul Burke

We always remember that as a small victory. Despite all the [Rwandan Army] did to that mass of humanity, we got one little girl out of there. – Captain Carol Vaughan-Evans

The Rwandan soldiers were taking pot shots at him. He was confused. He didn’t know what to do. – Corporal Paul Jordan

My boots were filling up with his blood and he ended up in intensive care for a quite a while but he lived. -Lieutenant Robbie Lucas

I gave him a handover and came back up to our area to sit down and have a smoke. I really had to think hard about how to get back up again. One of the boys made me a brew and I started to shake. -Lieutenant Thomas Steve Tilbrook

The look of pure desperation and animal-like fear in the father’s dark, wide eyes will be burned into my memory forever. -Sergeant Terry Pickard

On the 22nd of April to the 24th of April, 1995, a 32 strong Australian force were witness to a massacre of thousands of people. Over the course of three days they worked under heavy fire collecting and treating victims. Men. Women. Children. Hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned with Rules of Engagement which would not allow them to intervene they instead tended to the wounded and saved lives where they could.

Kibeho Aerial.

Rwanda is a small mountainous country in central Africa made up mostly of two ethnicities. The Hutu and the Tutsi. The Tutsi are the minority of the population but held a majority of privilege when the Rwanda was a Belgian colony. Following a long civil war which has seen numerous massacres carried out and people displaced like refugees in their own country the fighting came to an end. The Rwandan Patriotic Front defeated the Hutu government and took power in July 1994.

In August 1994 the Australian troops as part of UNAMIR II arrived. Their mission was to provide medical support to the 5,500 strong UN Mission mostly made up of troops from other African nations. Internally displaced people’s camps were scattered across the country housing hundreds of thousands of people who has lost everything due to the long civil war and were refugees in their own country. The RPF newly named the Rwandan Patriotic Army wanted the camps closed. It was said that the camps sheltered former Hutu forces and were being used as bases from which to strike the RPA. At Kibeho, site of a massacre of Tutsis only the year before was an IDP camp of approximately 150,000 Hutus. The RPA moved 1,000 troops to Kibeho on the 18th of April, 1995 and herded the IDPs into a cordoned off area. On the 19th of April 1995, 32 personnel from the Australian Medical Support Force were dispatched by the UN to Kibeho joining a Zambian infantry company already on the site to help treat people. IDPs would be screened by the RPA at a checkpoint exiting the camp. There genocide survivors from past atrocities would point out individuals who would then be taken away and presumably executed. Shots were being fired and bodies were turning up although the RPA said they were firing into the air for crowd control purposes.

On the 22nd of April, 1995 the Australians arrived at Kibeho and found that many IDPs had been killed the night before. Either shot by the RPA or hacked by machetes inside the camp by Hutu militia members. The Hutu militia members were doing this to terrorise the refugees into remaining in the camps so as to protect them. The wounded were being treated in a hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) and the Australians set up a medical station there. ” The floor was covered in blood and human waste. Some of the children were picking up corn out of the human waste and eating it. Some of the mothers did the same, but first re-cooked the corns in tins of water heated over their little fires. The RPA had cut off all food and water supplies to the camp five days earlier. Now the refugees were showing their sheer desperation to survive.”

An Australian stretcher bearer helps to move a wounded man from Kibeho. Picture: George Gittoes.

While the medics worked, the Australian infantry sent with them for protection went out with stretchers and retrieved casualties. At 10am shots were fired towards the hospital and the Australian infantry commander Lt Steve Tilbrook ordered the Australians to move towards the Zambian company compound for protection due to its defensive fortifications. The RPA moved into the hospital and started shooting. In the IDP camp the refugees stampeded but the Rwandese troops had set up a cordon around the nearby valley and hunted down the refugees. The Zambian compound was swamped by people trying to escape and Lance Corporal Andy Miller was caught up in the rush. A guy came out of the crowd and started hitting him with a stick. Miller had his own get back stick and the two flogged the hell out of each other until both of their sticks broke. As Miller’s stick broke someone in the crowd threw a rock at him. He grabbed his rifle and cocked it as the crowd moved in and the rock thrower disappeared. He managed to get back to his men where he ordered them to fix bayonets until things calmed down and they were able to return to stretcher bearer duties.

Left to Right: Lance Corporal David Hopgood, Corporal Paul Jordan and Captain Carol Vaghan-Evans. Photo: Department of Defence.

Captain Carol Vaughan-Evans was in charge of the medical team who continued to work calling in for a medevac via helicopter. She and her team also took casualties out to the heli-pad several times coming under fire. While waiting at the heli-pad the Australians would sit in front of casualties shielding their bodies with their own. The RPA ordered Captain Vaughan-Evans and her team not to go to the MSF hospital. Repeatedly they did this even though they were told to stop or they would be killed. While carrying out life saving work on the casualties bullets landed directly around the medical personnel. As the massacre went on they began to run low on supplies. They could no longer throw away gloves after each patient but simply had to wash them in buckets of rain water. They ran out of alcohol swabs having to use water instead and in time IV fluids, morphine and the like also ran out.

Sgt Pickard kept a personal journal and noted some of the wounded he treated at Kibeho. The following is but one example of many.

This boy had walked up from the ward and tapped me on the arm. I was a little amused at first to see him grabbing at my shirtsleeve and wondered what he wanted. Then, when he turned sideways and pointed at the left-hand side of his chest, I understood clearly what he wanted. There was a medium-sized entry wound in the front left of his chest and when I turned him around I saw he had a very large exploded exit wound in the back left of his rib cage. All his shattered ribs were well exposed and I could clearly see his damaged lung. I stood for a moment absolutely stunned and wondered how the hell this boy was still alive with half of his chest missing, let alone being able to walk around. All I could think of doing was wrapping his upper body up in roller bandages to try and keep everything reasonably in place. I tried to get a drip in but due to dehydration form the amount of blood he had lost he had venous shutdown and I could not get a vein anywhere. He was evacuated to Butare on the next available chopper…

In addition to providing protection, infantry soldiers were coming under fire as stretcher bearers. They were sent out repeatedly to pick which casualties to bring to the Critical Casualty Post making decisions on who lived and who died despite no medical training. Furthermore on occasions infantry soldiers bandaged victims and looked after bags of fluids on drips after quickly learning on the run.

UN soldiers tend to the wounded. Picture: George Gittoes

Medecins Sans Frontieres staff informed Lt Tilbrook that there were still some of their staff in the hospital. The officer with two Australian diggers on foot went from the Zambian compound to the hospital in between crisscrossing fire between Hutu militia and RPA who were shooting at each other. Having successfully returned a panicked MSF doctor told him there was still one member missing. With two other diggers he went back to the hospital and found a woman hiding in a cupboard and all four returned safely again.

George Gittoes famous photo of Trooper Jon Church carrying a child to safety during the Massacre.

SAS medic Trooper Trooper Jon Church found a bawling three year old girl and carried her out. ” If you look closely at that photograph, there are tears running down Jonathan’s face.” tells photographer George Gittoes. Only able to treat the wounded another medic bandaged her arm to make it appear she was wounded and she was given a biscuit laced with Diazepam. The sedative put her to sleep and the Australians put her in one of the ambulance storage bins as they drove out stopping at each of the RPA check points. Vaughan-Evans later wrote ” We always remember that as a small victory. Despite all the [Rwandan Army] did to that mass of humanity, we got one little girl out of there.”

Troops carry a victim away on a stretcher. Picture: George Gittoes.

Small victories were few and far between. SAS Medic Corporal Paul Jordan gestured for an elderly woman to come to him. Instead she went over to an RPA soldier. He put his arm around her and walked her up a hill. Then he turned and smiled at the Australian soldier. He shoved the woman to the ground and shot her dead. Such actions were meant to goad the Australians to disregard their Rules of Engagement which would have given the 2,000 RPA troops present the excuse to open fire on the 32 strong Australian contingent. Another time an Australian soldier repeatedly forced a refugee back over the razor wire of the Zambian compound. The RPA came and got him. Such hard decisions had to be made by Australian soldiers and lived with in the years to come. At another point in the massacre Aussies behind sandbags saw a man, woman and child; most likely a family sprinting towards them. Medic Sgt Terry Pickard said they should down behind their sandbags. They did and seconds later a massive amount of machine gun fire went into the area, when they looked up all three were dead. ” The look of pure desperation and animal-like fear in the father’s dark, wide eyes will be burned into my memory forever.” Tells Pickard.

” The Rwandan soldiers were taking pot shots at him. He was confused. He didn’t know what to do. I saw that the yelling and screaming wasn’t doing any good so I ran out and grabbed the boy and brought him back.” Corporal Paul Jordan spoke of when he under fire saved a little boy named Buragaya Patera. Some shrapnel had gone straight through his chest. Lt Robbie Lucas treated him and went out with him on the medevac chopper. ” My boots were filling up with his blood and he ended up in intensive care for a quite a while but he lived. He and I became very close over that time. He would always point at a photo of my wife and family and say “Robbie, Melissa, Nathan, Joshua,” and then point to himself and say “Buragaya”, which was very heart rending.” Tells Lt Lucas.

Lieutenant Robbie Lucas, an Australian Army Nursing Officer, kneeling on the ground with a small Rwandan child on his hip while the child’s injured mother is treated by medics. Photo: George Gittoes.

Lt Lucas often visited the boy in the hospital and would have liked to adopt him but he had to take him to the Mother Theresa orphanage. Buragaya Patera was sent to family in neighbouring Congo by the Red Cross. There was a similar killing spree in the Congo. Despite many inquiries no one knows if young Buragaya survived.

The majority of the killing took place as a thousand refugees rushed out of the camp again as night neared. Standing on a ridge above them the Tutsis fired upon them with small arms, RPGs, and .50 cal machine guns. Then they moved through the valley and shot the wounded.

That night the Australians camped at a small village just north of Kibeho where a number of Australians had been flown in that day including a second medical team and more infantry.

 

Kibeho, Rwanda. 1995-05. An Australian soldier of the Australian Medical Support Force (AMFS) standing amidst the remains of a refugee camp. Two weeks earlier this had been the site of the massacre.

In the morning the Australians returned with increased allowing them to carry out more work. Warrant Officer Rod Scott organised teams to move through and count the dead. Pools of blood and drag marks indicated the Rwandan soldiers had removed bodies overnight and the RPA prevented Australians looking in huts and latrines where bodies could have been hidden. The Australians counted 4,050 dead before they were stopped. No official estimates from the UN or the Rwandan government have ever matched these numbers.

Thousands of bodies lay on the ground after the Kibeho Massacre. Picture: George Gittoes

Lt Tilbrook recalled from the day ” you couldn’t step anywhere without stepping on a body.” Pot shots continued to be taken at Australians on this day as they moved through the IDP camps. The Australians continued to treat and evacuate casualties. As before at times they bandaged unharmed children to get them out.

Tilbrook relates dealing with the RPA throughout the the massacre was extremely dangerous. ” There were other occasions when I needed to move injured people but the RPA wouldn’t allow it, so there would be yet another stand-off with weapons pointing at each other until the RPA stood back and let us what we needed to do. By the end, I was just walking past them and pushing their barrels away, telling them to fuck off and get out of the way, because I was sick of them. I had become numb to them.” A the end of that day Tilbrook handed over to the CO of another platoon and went back to the Australian area to sit down and have a smoke. Finally able to relax delayed stress kicked in. Tilbrook remembers really having to think about how to get back up again. His body simply refused to without his mind firmly concentrating on the task.

The Australian Medical Support Force that had been there during the massacre returned to Kigali that night. Kibeho is a significant moment in Australian military history and means a great many things to different people. Some of the veterans suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. It is hard for them to have stood by with loaded rifles and been unable to stop the killing. Australian Rules of Engagement on UN Missions have changed since UNAMIR II as a result of Kibeho. SAS Medic Jon Church died during the following year in the Black Hawk Training accident. Medals of Gallantry, the first gallantary decoration to Australians since Vietnam, were awarded to WO2 Miller, WO1 Rod Scott, Major Vaughan-Evans and Lt Col Tilbrook. Other awards and commendations were awarded but no group bravery award or citation has been awarded for all 24 personnel. Originally UNAMIR II personnel were awarded the Australian Service Medal with Rwandan Clasp but this was subsequently upgraded to the Australian Active Service Medal with Rwandan Clasp in 2006.

What must be remembered is the following. Thousands of Rwandans were massacred. Australians risking their own lives saved many. Their mere presence let alone their extraordinary actions saved so many. There has been a cost to them for that but they did it and we as Australian should be immensely proud of them. ” I would like to take them all back to Rwanda, as I’ve had the fortune to do, and let them meet some of the survivors whose lives they saved. There might not be many of them, but when you see their faces beaming at you and the gratitude that they had to the Australian soldiers, the love they have for them, you realise it really was worth it.” states the artist and filmmakers George Gittoes who was with the AMSF throughout the massacre.

Sgt Terry Pickard, Captain Carol Vaughan-Evans pictured centre.

The next morning some of the members of the Australian Medical Support Force who had been at Kibeho during the massacre took part in the Dawn Service.
It was ANZAC Day.

Corporal Brian Buskell of Panania, NSW, keeps watch near Australian Medical Support Force casualty clearing post in Kibeho.

 

Postscript

Trooper Jon Church was killed in the Blackhawk Training Accident in 1996. He was 32 years old.

Corporal Paul Jordan left the Army shortly after Rwanda. He now works for a security firm on high risk jobs in places like Afghanistan and Syria.

Sergeant Terry Pickard was medically discharged with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 1997 months short of 20 years service in the Australian Army. He wrote Combat Medic: An Australian’s Eyewitness Account of the Kibeho Massacre which was published in 2008.

Warrant Office Class 2 Andrew Miller MG saw further overseas service in East Timor.

Major Carol Vaughan Evans MG saw further overseas service in East Timor and the Middle East. As late as 2006, she was in the Army Reserves and a Doctor for Careflight. Her main job was at a tertiary hospital.

LtCol Tilbrook MG has seen further overseas service in the Solomon Islands, Israel and Lebanon, and Afghanistan.

Bibliography

Pickard, Terry. 2008. Combat Medic: An Australia’s eyewitness account of the Kibeho Massacre. Big Sky Publishing.

Halloran, Kevin. 2012. Rwanda UNAMIR 1994/95. Big Sky Publishing.

Biedermann, Narelle. 2006. “The Kibeho Massacre, Rwanda.” In Modern Military Heroes: Untold stories of courage and gallantry, written by Narelle Biedermann, 32-84. Milsons Point: Random House Australia.

Northern Territory News. 2015. ” Australian troops remember Kibeho massacre in Rwanda.” Accessed October 20, 2015. http://www.ntnews.com.au/news/northern-territory/australian-troops-remember-kibeho-massacre-in-rwanda/story-fnk0b1zt-1227314070385

Australian War Memorial. 2007. ” Wartime Issue 39 – Bravery Under Fire.” Accessed October 20, 2015. https://www.awm.gov.au/wartime/39/bravery/

Big Sky Publishing. 2012. ” Pure Massacre Soldiers Reflect on the Rwandan Massacre – Book Trailer.” Accessed October 15, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ivlWwthB-g

2001. “Rwanda Peacekeepers.” Accessed October 22, 2015. http://www.warriordoc.com/rwanda/bios.htm