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MANY A LONG ROAD TRAVELLED - The Meaning of Duty First


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My name is Robert (Bob) J Meehan and in 1969 I was required to register for National Service and then served most of my two years compulsory military service as an Infantryman within 12 Platoon, Delta Company of the 4th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR). During that time I was posted to Townsville and South Vietnam and was discharged in late 1971. In the early 1980s I became involved with Australian Vietnam Veterans’ movements and am still actively involved today. 

This book in not intended as a long and detailed account of my life, of military units, battles or a blood and guts excursion into war, but rather like looking through a window of me growing up in the bush and the city, of being a young tradesman, of being called up for military service and of experiencing a period of time that changed my life forever and then my return to life as a civilian.  

I hope that you enjoy my story and the stories of a great many people for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration, those most magnificent people who allow me to call them MATES.

In Store Price: $AU29.95 
Online Price:   $AU28.95

 

AMAZON

ISBN: 978-1-921919-31-1 
Format: Paperback
Number of pages:305
Genre: Non Fiction
 

 

 

 


Author: Robert Meehan OAM
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2012
Language: English

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AUTHOR BIO

  

My name is Robert (Bob) J Meehan and in 1969 I was required to register for National Service and then served most of my two years compulsory military service as an Infantryman within 12 Platoon, Delta Company of the 4th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (4 RAR). During that time I was posted to Townsville and South Vietnam and was discharged in late 1971. In the early 1980s I became involved with Australian Vietnam Veterans’ movements and am still actively involved today. 

This book in not intended as a long and detailed account of my life, of military units, battles or a blood and guts excursion into war, but rather like looking through a window of me growing up in the bush and the city, of being a young tradesman, of being called up for military service and of experiencing a period of time that changed my life forever and then my return to life as a civilian.  

I hope that you enjoy my story and the stories of a great many people for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration, those most magnificent people who allow me to call them MATES.

 Introduction

 

A

ny life, no matter how long and complex it may be, is made up of a single moment, the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is.

You must have control of the authorship of your own destiny. The pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand.

This book in not intended as a long and detailed account of my life, of military units and battles, or a blood and guts excursion into war, but rather a brief story of my growing up in the bush and the city, of being a young tradesman, called up for military service and that of a period of time that has changed my life forever, then of my return to life as a civilian. My life is not over; this is the story of it thus far.

Here is my story and that of a great many people for whom I have the greatest admiration, those whom I consider the most magnificent people a man was blessed to call my “MATES”.


 Meehan family name

Our motto: “Fortis et Fidelis”

“Brave and Faithful”

  

R

ecorded in several spellings as shown below, this surname is of early medieval Irish origin. It derives from the Gaelic O' Miadhachain, meaning the male descendant of the son of the honourable one! Traditionally, Gaelic family names are taken from the heads of tribes, and were usually prefixed by O' in Ireland, and sometimes Mac, the latter denoting “son of”. The main O' Meehan sept was a branch of the illustrious MacCarthys of Munster, but by the end of the 11th century, they had migrated to County Leitrim, at Ballaghmeehin in the parish of Rossinber. From there they spread into the adjacent counties of Sligo, Fermanagh and Clare. Early name holders were Thomas and Denis O'Meehan, successively the bishops of Achonry, County Sligo, between the years 1251 and 1285, and from early times the sept were Erenaghs of Devenish, County Fermanagh. Erenaghs were hereditary holders of church property. The family also preserved a manuscript of the 6th century St Molaise of Devenish for over a thousand years: the document is now in the National Museum of Ireland. Now generally recorded as Meehan, Meegan, Meighan, and others, the first recorded spelling of the family name and one of the earliest on record, is that of Edru O'Meighan. This was dated 1152, in Ecclesiastical Records of Kells, County Meath, during the reign of Turlough Mor O'Conor, High King of Ireland, 1119 - 1156. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to “develop” often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.


The Meehans in Australia

 

John Charles Meehan MLC 1865 - 1930

(MLC – Member Legislative Council)

County Clare, Ireland (my great-grandfather)

 

 

John Alexander Meehan     1891 - 1960

Hughenden, Queensland, Australia (my grandfather)

 

 

Terence Francis Meehan     1925 - 1980

Griffith, New South Wales, Australia (my father)

 

 

Robert John Meehan OAM 1949 -

(OAM – Order of Australia)

Cowra, New South Wales, Australia (myself)

 

 

David John Meehan                        1973 -

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia (my son)

 

 

Bradley John Meehan         1995 -

Townsville, Queensland, Australia (my grandson)

 

 

My ancestors left Ireland in the mid 1860s, coming to Australia seeking riches in the goldfields of North Queensland. John Charles Meehan became a member of the Queensland Government. John Alexander moved south, becoming a store owner. Terence (Terry) was a carpenter, later a soldier in the 2/12 Infantry Battalion fighting the Japanese in New Guinea in WWII. On his return he became a house painter and left the marriage when I was two years old.

Then there’s me.

 Chapter 1 )(part sample)

Growing up in the country

 

I

 was born Robert John Meehan in the country town of Cowra, NSW on Tuesday 26th April 1949, to parents, Terence (Terry) Francis Meehan and Noela Jean Meehan (King). I have a sister, Rhonda who is two years my senior. I love her dearly. Even though we are like “chalk & cheese” we get along great. I remember as a young kid, Rhonda was a good tennis player and once there were Hula Hoop championships within towns throughout the Central West area of NSW and Rhonda won. Even as a young kid I was proud of her. Cowra was a nice friendly town to grow up in.

Cowra is a farming district about 200 km due west of Sydney. The town spans the Lachlan River. This is a significant river in central New South Wales. The river rises in the central highland of New South Wales, part of the Great Dividing Range, 13 km east of Gunning. Its major headwaters, the Carcoar River, the Belubula River and the Abercrombie River converge near the town of Cowra. Minor tributaries include the Morongla Creek. The Lachlan River flows west and then south, terminating in the Great Cumbung swamp near Oxley (between Hay and Balranald). The 500 km² swamp, a floodplain for the Lachlan, joins the Murrumbidgee River to the south. There is some irrigation in the middle reaches of the Lachlan.

The origin of the town's name is unclear, old locals claim that the name is aboriginal for “rocks”, although the local Wiradjuri language has no words for “rocks”. I spent most of my childhood exploring and playing in the hills behind my grandmother’s house, often coming home with the arse worn out of my pants from sliding down the rocks.

The hills surrounding the township are littered with huge granite boulders and an assortment of wildlife, mainly reptiles like frilled neck lizards, brown snakes and goannas. I could always outrun them but the goannas were a bit of a worry. When startled, they would run and do what is called “Tree”. This meant that any tall object would be ideal to run up to be out of danger, even run up a human. I’m not sure but I think they also find it hard to change direction while running, so are known to have run up and over a person. We had kangaroos and wallabies, but as the land gave way to agriculture they become scarcer. The skies were always full of wedge-tailed eagles hunting rabbits that were always in abundance, not to mention young lambs. I used to sit on the rock outcrops and shoot rabbits, of course having checked that the snakes were not sunning themselves on the same rock.

 

My father

 

My father served with the 2/12 Battalion during WWII in New Guinea and fought the Japanese on Shaggy Ridge. Shaggy Ridge is a six-and-a-half kilometre long razor-backed ridge that is the highest feature in the Finisterre Mountains in north-eastern New Guinea. The ridge rises between the valleys of the Mene and Faria Rivers and ends at Kankiryo Saddle - a bridge of land separating the Faria Valley from the Mindjim River Valley. In 1943 Shaggy Ridge was the site of the main Japanese defensive position blocking access from the Ramu Valley to the track and road network that joined it with the north coast. Operations by the 7th Australian Division in September and October 1943 had caused the Japanese to withdraw from the Ramu Valley and the lower features of the Finsterres and consolidate their defences around Shaggy Ridge. The ridge was named after Captain Robert “Shaggy Bob” Clampett of the 2/27th Battalion whose company was the first to reconnoitre its approaches.

The capture of Shaggy Ridge cost the 18th Brigade the lives of 46 men and 147 wounded and inflicted over 500 casualties on the Japanese, including 244 confirmed deaths. It cleared the way for an advance across the Finsterres to the northern New Guinea coast to link up with the Australian forces advancing from the east and thus complete the capture of the Huon Peninsula. I found it interesting while reading up on the history of the 2/12 Battalion that it was the one that held the smallest front line ever against the Japanese during WWII. It was one yard, just wide enough for a Bren Gunner and his offsider. The ridge must have been so narrow.

My father left the family unit when I was two years old. I never saw him again until I was in my mid thirties. He died two years later. I have one old photo of him, taken in uniform in New Guinea with a mate, his Army pay book and a set of four military medals. Not much to remind me of the man that helped give life to me. All the other photos of my father and I together, my mother had cut him out of them. I have read of his unit’s actions in the war; they did it tough in New Guinea. I do have respect for him, and often think of him and what may have been if I had met him earlier in my life. Many times over the years my mother would say in a sarcastic and derogative manner that I was just like my bloody father and that I would amount to nothing. What a profound, poignant statement that was to become. I now accept it as an awe-inspiring compliment.

 

My mother

 

My childhood was difficult without a father but I lived through it. I can never remember having a happy time with my mother. She was cruel, abusive and most of all not very honest with the truth. The one thing I remember from my childhood that resembled an act of kindness on her part was when she went out to the pub and left my sister and me alone during the night. If we were good, we would wake up to find a Cadbury Violet Crumble bar under our pillows. I still love them to this day. The new Crunchy bar doesn’t come near the old Violet Crumble.

One time she caught me playing with matches. I was about seven at the time. After getting a flogging, she dragged me kicking and screaming to the bathroom where we had a gas hot water heater. The heater had what is called a pilot light. You would light that and then turn it into the main part of the heater to ignite the gas of the heating element. My mother lit the pilot light, adjusted the flame so it was like a finger of flame, then proceeded to burn the tips of my 10 fingers and thumbs to the extent that it caused large blisters to form. This was her way of stopping me from doing it again. It didn’t.

Another time I remember very vividly is the day I did something wrong. My mother decided I needed another dose of discipline. This was to be administered with the aid of a wooden copper stick. Back in them there “good old days” most people had a large copper tub in which they would boil water and then do their clothes’ washing in it. They would stir the water with a wooden stick (one inch by one inch and about four foot long) which over time would become white and furry on the outside from the hot water. Anyway she proceeded to beat the crap out of me with it. She hit me so hard the stick broke. I thought to myself, thank Heaven that’s over. I was wrong. She then got the shits that I broke her stick and went to fetch the detachable iron or jug cord and then not only did I receive a flogging for the first misdemeanour, I got another for breaking her precious copper stick as well.

I recall the time I got a flogging for throwing a ball to my sister and I missed and it broke a neighbour’s window. It just so happened that my grandmother had given me ten shillings as a birthday present, to buy Johnny Horton’s ‘Sink the Bismark’ a 45’ Columbia record. I had to give the money to the neighbour so she could repair the window. I did eventually get the record.

At the age of nine, one of her drunken boyfriends hit me so hard, I was knocked out cold (YES you do see stars). I have never forgotten that night, being chased down the street and beaten. I wasn’t the best-behaved kid, sometimes acting like a little bastard as my mother would call me. I guess it was my way of fighting back at her. I would often run away from home; it wasn’t that far to my grandmother’s house. I felt safe there. I must have been a brave little kid because I’d often run away at night and I was scared of the dark.

I remember the reason I ran away one time, it was over a jacket. I had been given a Mickey Mouse Club jacket with all the logos sewn on it. I absolutely loved it. I wore it everywhere – to school, to the shops, even to bed. I would have showered in it if I could. For some reason I was in trouble with my mother and during the course of getting a hiding, I tried to get away from her. As I did, the jacket tore. I stopped struggling and just stood there. My mother told me to take the jacket off and then proceeded to rip it to shreds. I ran away crying and again ended up at my nana’s.

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