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A Set Up

By 41961 WO1 (Bob) R.C. Thompson (Ret)

Bob Thompson
Bob Thompson

1955/56 saw one of the first large Army exercise ‘Firepower’ at Puckapunyal, Victoria. I was a Cpl posted at 1st Armoured Regiment LAD, my job was General Engineering (GE) Platoon where I was allocated to one of the three squadrons of Centurions tanks, “C” Sqn, under the command of Maj. (Daddy) Duncan.

I was charged with leading the RAEME element to back up the tanks. With me were two Vehicle Mechs, Henry Room and Doug Young and one other GE type, I can’t remember his name, I think it was Peter Skeen. We had a Jeep and a White scout car with a wireless set No 19, to keep in touch, call sign 12Alpha.

Each day at the close of the exercise all the commanders would meet at the old Range Camp hut and with the Commander Lt Col Coleman and his 2IC a Brit Exchange Officer Maj. Morticy-Jones (not sure of the spelling) we would all report on our days activities.

The Tech officer for the Regiment was a Capt John Mead and he had the habit towards evening he would track me down and see what I had done for the day. I would tell him of the breakdowns and the repairs that we did.

At the evening conferences each commander would in turn report to the CO what of his troop activities and any anomalies as well as suggestion that they could contribute. The reports went around the table and second last report was from the Tech Officer, Capt. John Mead and he invariable reported all my activities as if they were his own leaving me with nothing to say, as I was last.

I quickly got sick of this and thought I would teach Capt. Mead a lesson. Next afternoon as usual Mead turned up and I reported what had happened to one of the tanks. Tanks those days had a habit of breaking the second gear lever on the gearbox and usually we would select the second gear by hand and have the driver take it to the rear and await to have the gearbox replace in the field by a team from the LAD. This time I told Mead we tried something else and it was: We opened the engine hatches, wire tied track secondary pins to the gear levers (for those that wouldn’t know they are long enough to protrude well above the gear box in the air), we then had a crew member sit on the back of the tank and with the use of the infantry phone that is situated on the back of the tank the crew member could communicate with the driver and on the command of the driver the crew member on the back would pull the secondary levers attached to the gear levers and thus change gears.

That night at the conference right on queue the Tech Officer told the conference what he had achieved and he said as far as he knew it was a first. Col. Coleman turned to me and asked was this possible and I told him I thought it was a load of rubbish and it wasn’t possible because the fans alone would just about blow the crew member of the track, the engine would over heat and be destroyed and I had never heard anything like this story before.

Capt John Mead ex Navy later transferred to the HMAS Sydney as the Liaison Officer. Col Coleman later when we were alone said to me, "You set Mead up didn’t you?" and I told him I did.


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