Archive number: 2450
Date interviewed: 27 August, 2004
Commander Australian Medical Support Force – Rwanda
You are listening to the interview audio
Give us a life summary.
I was born in Gatton in Queensland in the Lockyer Valley. My parents were on the land in the Lockyer Valley. I grew up on the farm. I went to boarding school at Downlands College in Toowoomba. I joined the army in 1975 through the Officer Cadet School at Portsea. Graduated into infantry and I served for 27 years. In that
time I spent time in the 8/9th Battalion in Brisbane as a platoon commander, in 1st Task Force down in Sydney, I was in the Land Warfare Centre, 42 RQR [Royal Queensland Regiment] in Rockhampton and on the reserve battalion where I was the adjutant. Then the infantry development unit down at the Infantry Centre in Singleton, the mechanised battalion in Sydney, 5/7RAR [Royal Australian Regiment] as the adjutant company commander and operations officer. I attended the Australian
Commanding Staff College. I went to Germany and worked with the British Army on the Rhine as a staff officer designing a divisional local exercise for them. I came back to the Infantry Centre in New South Wales again where I was involved as a staff officer responsible for force development for three years. I then commanded the 2/4th Battalion in Townsville, the online battalion. It was from that job I was deployed to Rwanda to command the Australian Medical Support Force.
From there I went to the UK [United Kingdom] as an exchange instructor at the British Army Staff College, came back to be commandant of the Land Warfare Centre at Canungra. Then attended the Defence College in Canberra. I was pulled out of that early to command the 7th Brigade when the conflict in East Timor occurred. It was at the end of that posting that I was forced to leave the army because my wife unfortunately was diagnosed with terminal cancer and so I resigned to look after her.
I always had an interest in financial matters and as I had a few degrees in business, I’m a qualified accountant, I also have an MBA [Masters of Business Administration] and a couple of other associated degrees, I felt that I wanted to do something for myself. So I raised a financial planning business here in Brisbane. Since leaving I’ve become qualified in financial planning and I’m now in the process of building my own business.
Tell me about growing up on a farm in Gatton.
Growing up on the farm was really an idyllic situation. We had a beautiful farm right beside the Lockyer Creek. The Lockyer in those days used to flow, haven’t seen much water in it for the last few years for whatever reason, but it was a great lifestyle with living out in the open air, helping to work on the farm. I was going to school in the local school where you knew everybody. I was related to probably most of the
kids at school. My father was a very keen shooter so he was into outdoor sports, so I was brought up learning how to shoot very early. In those days, it was quite safe for kids to go off, so it wouldn’t be unusual for us to go off into the hills and go camping, going down to the creek fishing and staying overnight. That was essentially the lifestyle. Everyone helped each other on the farms in those days. So when you were bringing hay
in at night, all the farmers came together to help. All the kids would be playing in the sheds until late in the morning. That sort of thing. So it was a great lifestyle. That basically came to an end when I went off to boarding school. There wasn’t much time for the farm life after that.
What kind of farm was it?
It was a small crops farm. In those days we grew a variety of things like cabbage, cauliflowers, all those sorts of things. Very highly intensive
farming. The farms weren’t very large because there was so much work involved that you didn’t need them to be large. In later years the farm grew and specialised into things like mostly trellis tomatoes and lucerne, that kind of thing. The farm in the end ended up being about eight farms, which we purchased off neighbours over the years. The family farm ended up being quite a large enterprise over the
last 20-odd years.
How many siblings did you have?
There was six of us altogether. We were four brothers and two sisters. I was second in that group.
Did you have to take on more responsibility being one of the eldest?
It varied a little bit. It depended on what your interest was in farming. My older brother was always going to be a farmer and you could hardly get him to go to school. Soon as he was home, he was out on the farm
working. I was always reasonably industrious, so I did a lot of work around the farm, but I also found time to do a lot of other things. The outdoor adventurous things. I’d have to say my other two younger brothers had no great interest in farming. They did what they had to do, but not much more. I don’t think I was forced to take on any more responsibility, but I did do a lot of work around the farm.
Were you interested
in pursuing a career in farming?
I had a bit of a difficult time getting into the army. When I was at Downlands I had a Duntroon [Royal Military College] scholarship. Unfortunately Downlands, which was an all-male boarding school for the first four years that I was there, when we left to go on holidays at the end of year 11, our sister school, St Ursula’s, was having financial difficulties, which we didn’t know about, and when we came back to school in year 12 we were co-ed.
The girls were bussed over to our school every morning. So they attended our classes. All of a sudden we found that the girls had learned different things in year 11 to what we’d learned so we had to teach a lot of things again. It was very disruptive. I failed to matriculate by one point, so therefore I couldn’t go to Duntroon. Nobody had told me about Portsea at that point, so I didn’t know that I could have gone to Portsea. So I ended up going to university
for a while. I did a few things I wasn’t really interested in doing because I wanted to be an officer in the army. At one point I did come home on the farm and I worked there for about 18 months. That basically confirmed for me that I didn’t want to be a farmer. By this time I’d heard about Portsea and I applied to Portsea and ended up going there.
What age were you when you went to boarding school?
I would have been 13, so I was a little bit late. I’d gone to Gatton High School in year eight. My father was always very keen on the Defence Force. He wanted to join the army for the Second World War, but the war ended I think within a few days of him turning 17 or 18, whatever the call-up age was. He never ever pressured me to go into the army, but I knew that he would have liked to have done that
himself at some point if he could have. When I was in year eight at the Gatton High School, which was not one of the better schools, one of our neighbours was killed in Vietnam and my parents went off to the funeral. That person who had been killed had been a student at Downlands College. Downlands College had a very large curriculum. It was compulsory at Downlands to be in the cadets in those days. They put a guard of honour on at the funeral. Dad was very impressed by this
and went and saw the priest at the funeral and said, “How can I get my son in here?” He said, “We only take people in year eight or year 11.” He said, “That’s not a problem. He’s not doing that great at year eight, he can repeat.” So I ended up repeating year eight to go to Downlands the next year, so I was a little bit older than the rest of the students. I would have been about 13, whereas I think the normal age for someone in year eight was 12. That meant I was a year older when I left than the rest of them as well.
Your dad was very impressed?
He was impressed, yeah. The local high school, the attitude was that they all go on to become truck drivers or farmers, and really there wasn’t that much effort being put into our education. I’d also been brought up with a one-teacher, seven-grade school in our local farming community, and there was only 21 students in the school. So it wasn’t what you would call a great education in primary school when you’ve got one teacher teaching
all seven classes. All he is really interested in is playing sport. Then I went to the Gatton High School where nobody was about to take your side and try and help you catch upon the things that you missed. So it was really a combination of knowing that if I stayed in that school I couldn’t have amounted to anything because the education wouldn’t have allowed me. So he looked into Downlands. I think it was the cadet unit that clinched it for him, but it was also the fact that it was a very good school
and that I needed something to raise my overall level of education, because at that point it had not been all that great. For the first three years at Downlands I had to have tuition after hours in every subject just to bring me up to the same standard as everybody else. So I had seven years of primary education where we learned very little.
What can you remember about that primary school education?
I can remember
that the teacher that we had was a very keen sportsman. He arranged for us to compete with every other small school that there was in the region. We spent an enormous amount of time training for these different sports. Now as a child you’re not about to go home and complain about that. He was, in fact, removed from the job a couple of years after I left the school, and the school was then closed because they
consolidated the smaller schools into a larger one. But the damage was already done by that time. I enjoyed the education. The school was, we walked to school from the farm, it was a little school right in the middle of our faming community. All the kids just walked up there and we walked home. There was certainly no academic pressure placed on us. I guess the fact that your parents are on the land, they’re busy,
they were educated in that same system, so they weren’t there cracking the whip at night saying, “Where’s your homework?” when there wasn’t any. It wasn’t until many years later that parents really had a look into it and realised, “There’s no homework being done here. The kids are not getting a good education.” Then they complained about it and they ended up removing the teacher and soon after that closing the school. So while it was an enjoyable time at primary school, I wouldn’t say that I learned too much.
What sports were you training?
It was all the things you play in primary school, like rounders and touch football. We trained for all the athletic carnivals they used to have in those days. Racing and the jumping and all that sort of stuff, so everyone was tested to see what they were good at. Then there were the team sports. Softball and that sort of thing.
He had us involved in a very wide range of sports. I went on to continue to play sports, but mainly rugby, but we weren’t playing rugby and that sort of thing at primary school.
The first time you did year eight was at Gatton High?
I went from the primary school to Gatton High in year eight.
How did you find going into high school?
That wasn’t all that enjoyable. It was a very rough school. I was
very tall, so of course when you’re at a rough school, and you’re very tall in year eight you tend to get picked on. I can remember the first day at the school. There was a little gang there decided to pick a fight with me. I didn’t back down from the fight, I didn’t win it either. There were a few of them onto me. I was before the headmaster on day one. Along with the gang, but I would have thought it’d be fairly obvious, you have
one grade eight here and there’s three year 10s just leading me up. They might have said, “You’re all right mate. We’ll do something about them.” but that’s not the way it worked. Then that afternoon it was on again at the bus stop. That’s the way it was for the first few weeks that I was there. So I wasn’t all that impressed. But it was one of those things because I did stand up, I didn’t back down, even though I wasn’t winning, then all of a sudden I was accepted as being OK.
So after that there was a real temptation of getting in with the wrong group, because this wrong group thought you were an OK bloke. Not that I did, but you can imagine. I don’t know what would have happened if I’d stayed on at that school, because again, the education wasn’t great, and the fact that we’d had such poor grounding in the primary school and there was nobody there who was going to take you aside and bring you up to the required standards so you could them
compete within that high school environment. That was just never going to happen. So I think if Dad hadn’t taken me out of the Gatton High School that I probably would have ended up being home on the farm, to be honest with you.
Did your older brother go to Gatton High School?
He went to Gatton High School as well, but left as soon as we were able to leave. I think it was 14 at the time. He was only ever going to be a farmer and the moment he turned the required age he never went back.
What was it like repeating a year?
It wasn’t too bad, because at Downlands they put me up in the dormitory with the kids of my age. So even though I went to the classes with the year eight students, I ended up living in the dormitory with year nine. The reason for that was that I was so tall. So not only was I a year older than the rest of the kids in year eight, but I was also about a foot taller. They said, “We’ll let you live with the kids of your age and you’re just going to have to go to school with
the other ones.” As you go on and everyone grows a bit, the height difference was always going to be there, but it just wasn’t that noticeable after a couple of years. I think I ended up being one dormitory ahead of the class until year 10 and then I went into the same dormitories as the others in year 11 and 12. I wasn’t the only one. There were others who came out from the land out west who were in the same boat. Who grew up
going to school using the radio and had repeated years. There were two or three kids in our class who were the same age as me. I wasn’t by myself there a year older and everything else. So it wasn’t something I ever got pulled up about. If I’d been shorter, the same height as everyone else, it would never have mattered.
This was an all-boys school as well?
How did you feel going into that environment?
I really enjoyed it. I loved boarding school. I took to it. At no point was I ever homesick. I got involved in the cadets straight away. At Downlands I mentioned that it was compulsory to be in the cadets, but that was from grade nine through to 12. In grade eight they had a cadet auxiliary that you could join if you wanted to. So I joined the cadet auxiliary. I did my sergeant’s training and I became an
underofficer at the end of year nine. So I was a cadet underofficer for years 10, 11 and 12. I was in charge of the cadet unit in year 12. Most kids at school get to be a CUO [Cadet Under Officer] in year 12 and I was a CUO for three years. I really enjoyed it. It was a very sporting school, and you could just play whatever sports you liked. I was into, from my primary school,
I was into the athletics and I played rugby and I played in the First XV. It’s one of those schools where if you’re good at sports, you’re going to make it anyway. I was selected for their Queensland Schoolboys’ rugby union side and I played in the athletics. So every season, whatever the sport was, I was in one of the top teams. So I enjoyed it. I enjoyed
the fact that we were forced, I didn’t have to be forced, but everyone had to play sport. Every afternoon, it was very regimented, as soon as school finished, you had about 10 minutes to get changed and you were up in the sports fields and were there until whatever time. Then you had about 15 minutes to get back, get changed, go to study. Then there were three quarters of an hour for dinner and then there was another study period and another one after that. Then you were up early in the morning for study before breakfast. It was very highly regimented.
Enormous amount of time was committed to study. I needed that, and I used it. I never wasted that time, and that’s why I was able in about the first three years that I was there to catch up in all the education that I’d lost in the early years, and by the end of year 10 into year 11 I was very much up at the top end of my class.
Why was cadets compulsory there?
They just had a view that it was
a form of discipline, that you learn skills that are going to help you in life. Leadership skills. A lot of the training that you had, just living in the field, that kind of thing. It wasn’t just like being in the army where they teach you to kill people and things like that, it was really just teaching people to be leaders, teaching people to operate in a team environment. We used to go off and do bivouacs
on the weekend where you would have to do quite challenging things as a group. Learning to navigate, learning to improvise and make things, using improvisation techniques. That kind of thing. I think there was a lot of things at the cadet unit, a lot of benefit that cadets provides to a young mind. A hell of a lot of life skills can be learned by being in a cadet unit.
Downlands had the view as well, and they basically felt that it was so important that they were going to compel people to the unit as opposed to make it voluntary.
Did any kids reject it?
Absolutely. There were a lot of people, there were a lot of rogues in every school, there were a lot of rogues in this school. I can remember the biggest challenges I had when I was in charge of the cadet unit
was dealing with the rogue element that didn’t want to be there. This is where you learn leadership. I didn’t go up there and yell at them or anything like that, I used a lot of techniques to make them do what they had to do. They had a platoon commander who couldn’t handle them at all. Every time we had to do something that I knew they wouldn’t do I’d just say, and we put them all in one platoon to make it easier, so I’d say, “I’ll go and take 2 Platoon today.” You had to
exercise leadership to get them to do things, and there were some things they were never going to do. So if they were never going to do it there was no sense in causing an event, which you didn’t really know how it was going to unfold, so you found some way of compromising. I can remember one bivouac we had to do in year 12 where we had to walk over the escarpment in Toowoomba, walk right down into the valley
and go a very long distance, keeping in radio contact back with base camp and go and check into a number of checkpoints and come back. What it meant was a long walk over very difficult terrain over about a three-day period. After I’d announced to everybody that this was what was going to happen, then they all went off to the various start points and I said, “And I think I’ll go with 2 Platoon.” because I knew 2 Platoon had no intention of doing this. So I went with them and
said, “All right fellows, we’re going.” They said, “No, we’re not going.” and I said, “Yes, you are. Just come with me. We’ll work out how much of this we do once we get away from here.” We didn’t do it all. We had a great two or three days and we came back at the end and the priest in charge of cadets was not very happy with me because he knew we didn’t do what it was we were supposed to do, but there was no way they were going to do it. Rather than create a whole bunch of disciplinary issues that would have come out of it, we went, we did, we
had a good time, and we came back and everyone was happy and the hierarchy were none the wiser. So there are situations like that where you’ve just got to do what’s appropriate in the circumstances. They got something out of it. It wasn’t a total waste of a weekend. They had a great time together and we did do some walking and we did do some navigating and we did a bunch of other things as well. We just didn’t walk as far as we were meant to walk.
What techniques did you use to bring them into line?
Just things like when you inspected them, for instance, they’d deliberately drop cream cake on their shoes and they wouldn’t have cleaned them. They’d have their shirts hanging out. All sorts of things they did just to annoy you. The platoon commander that was responsible for them would go off and be yelling at them and they didn’t care. Then I’d come along and inspect them and
I’d just be saying things like, “Excellent standard of dress, there. You are really improving. You nearly worked out how to put that shirt on.” You’d go on. Cos what they wanted you to do was react, so you don’t do what they want you to do. Then you give them some really horrible job that they’re not going to want to do. So you don’t react and you say, “You just go and do this today.” So in the end it was backfiring on them. But you did
just good fun. We were all cadets together. I think you can take some jobs too seriously. I think that’s the problem with a lot of leaders in school environments where they take on the mantle of being the protector. It’s rubbish, you’re one of them and your job is to help them get through this period of their lives with the least amount of hassles, while also helping the school to make sure that
whatever you’re doing is being done in the best possible way. I had a lot of fun doing what I did. I used to, when I finished the parade every afternoon, because there was a very little period of time from when the parade finished before we had to have dinner, so there was a big rush on the showers. I’d fall out all the underofficers and I’d call the RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] up and I’d tell him that given the standard, “Give them 10 minutes of drill before you fall them out.”
We’d all march off. And you can see these guys were just riling because they knew exactly what you were doing. So you just trot of and have a leisurely shower. By the time you got out of the shower they were all up there. They’re in lockers beside you. It was all in good fun and they’d be doing exactly the same things if they were able to.
Did they ever take it out on you?
Sounds like you developed some great man-
It was a learning experience, and again, if you were to take yourself too seriously in that environment, it’d never work.
Can you issue detention or some kind of punishment?
Yeah, you could, where on a Saturday morning they’d have to go and clean weapons at the armoury and things like that. I don’t recall ever doing that. I was never really into that. I always believed that if you couldn’t get people to do what you wanted them to do
then you shouldn’t be doing it.
School holidays you’d go home to your mum?
No, that was rare. Because I was in the cadets and I did all the training to become an NCO [Non Commissioned Officer] and then a cadet underofficer, all that training was done during the holiday periods. So it wasn’t done through school time. The only thing that was done through school time was the parade that we’d have once a week on a Friday afternoon. So all the cadet
training was done down at Wacol here in Brisbane during the holidays. It’d usually go for about 10 days and our holidays was usually a couple of weeks in those days, so I went off virtually every holiday doing all the courses that I needed to do to become a sergeant and then cadet underofficer. That took about two years. After that, once you become an underofficer, you’re the one down there doing training for those coming through. So most of my holidays, except the Christmas holidays,
I would be down doing cadet work. I was also, because of my shooting background, brought up with my father being a shooter; I was also in the cadet shooting team. So those shooting competitions used to be held during holidays as well. So I’d get to see my parents probably three or four days on the holidays, usually. It wasn’t long periods of time.
The funeral you’d gone to, which was the reason you went to Downlands
was the guy who was killed in Vietnam. What was the story there?
He was conscripted, he was in, I think it was 6RAR, and he was killed in one of the big battles they had over in Vietnam. His name was Francis Copp. He was a distant relative of ours. I didn’t go to his funeral, I was at school, but my parents did. So it was very sad obviously in a small community such as ours.
That was something that I certainly remember at the time. I didn’t know much about Vietnam in those days. I guess I was a bit young. That was basically the first occasion I had to think about Vietnam.
Your dad goes to a funeral for a guy that was killed in Vietnam and says, “I want my son to be in the army cadets”?
Yeah. I was basically enrolled
when he came back from the funeral. But it wasn’t so I could go and join the cadets, it was the fact that he cadet unit was there providing the honour guard from the school that he was at. It was a combination of those things that caused him to say, “I want my son to go to this school.” He came back from the funeral and I said, “How was the funeral, Dad?” He said, “Good, you’re going to Downlands College next year.”
I didn’t like Gatton High so I had no objection to that whatsoever.
I’m just thinking about the connection that the irony of a funeral of a Vietnam veteran and the idea of the army all on the same day.
I don’t think he had that connection of cadets, join the army, get killed. Obviously that connection didn’t occur to me either.
It was really the fact that he saw the discipline side of it. Here’s a school that sent 100 people down here with a cadet guard of honour for one of their old students. He was very impressed by it.
It’s probably just my melodramatic connections.
I think it’s quite reasonable to think about it.
Was it in year 12 that St Ursula’s…? What a crazy way to finish off your high school after you’d caught up.
It was. It was very disruptive. We had the worst academic year in Downlands history and the school tried to blame us for it at the end. It was just ridiculous. They could have gone co-ed in year 11. In those days there was the end of year 12 public exam. There was
no intermediate assessment whatsoever, so it didn’t matter what you learned, in what sequence you learned it, you were just going to sit the exact same exam everyone else in the state sat at the end of year 12. So our teachers could pick whatever sequence they wanted to teach the course, as long as they kept to the curriculum in the two-year period. When we got into year 12, you’ve got to remember that most of our teachers were priests and brothers so they weren’t used to having females around them at all. So they basically had grown up in this all-male environment.
So it was just as disruptive for them as it was for us. All of a sudden we’ve got girls in the class and with our teachers delivering the instruction. They start talking about teaching a lesson and the girls are putting their hand up saying, “Excuse me, we learned that last year.” This was happening in all the classes. Then they had these emergency meetings to work out what the girls had learned in year 11 and what we’d learned in year 11 and found there was a major disconnector. So then they said, “We’re going to have to teach a lot of this stuff again.
If you find yourself in a class where you’ve already learned it, take yourself off to the library.” So we’re going from an environment which was highly disciplined in those days. If you looked out the window you got a fanbelt around your head. That sort of environment. So all of a sudden, “I’m bored of this, I’m going to the library.” So you just pick up your books and walk to the library, just like you would at university. There wasn’t any study being done at the library, I can assure you. This was the sort of disruption that occurred.
It just went on and on. There was the end of our rugby union season where we played Toowoomba Grammar, which was the big game for Downlands College. The rival was Toowoomba Grammar and that was the big rugby game for the year. The first 15 won the game. Traditionally they went down to a pub in town and the parents went as well, if they were there for the day, and they had dinner and they had a few drinks. That had been happening every year forever.
Myself and another lad from the team had taken two of the girls who were living back in our own school to a pub, had one drink and then we went over to the other pub and the girls went back. Three weeks later the girls went on retreat. While they were on retreat there was a group of girls who had know that these two girls had been at the pub and had come back late, later than the rest, and felt compelled to tell
the nuns. So they did. The nuns expelled the two girls, one of whom was the school captain, and then demanded that Downlands expel the First XV. So we were raked in then and for three days we had to wait to find out whether we were being expelled or not. It would have meant the whole hierarchy of the school would have been gone and the priest didn’t want to do it. But they were being forced to do it by the nuns. In the end they suspended us for two weeks. This was just before the public exam.
So we had to take everything out of the school and go home for two weeks and the two girls were expelled. It was this sort of thing that caused, that two weeks would have cost me a point in, I only failed to matriculate by one point. So I wasn’t able to go to Duntroon. I didn’t go to Portsea for another four and a half years because of one point. You could put it all down to that going co-education in that year.
On the other side of the coin it was a great year. We’ve got some wonderful friends that were made out of that year, mainly because there were very few of us who went onto the things that we were going to do because none of us got the results that we should have got. I ended up going to the army eventually, many of the others ended up doing what they were going to do eventually, but very few got to do it straight away. So as a result we did a whole bunch of things for that four years after we all left
school before we eventually settled down into something. It’s a very close-knit group. Still is today.
How did you find suddenly having girls in your education environment?
I thought it was great. I’m all for co-education, I’m not for single-sex educational schools at all. It’s just when you do it and how you do it. No, it was good. The only downside to it was the educational aspect.
You needed a good few months just to come to grips with the fact that you’ve now got girls sitting beside you and they’ve got boys sitting beside them. The teachers need to come to grips with the fact that there’s now females in the class. It’s not something that you, we used to go to dance lessons with girls once a month. The girls were sitting on one side of the room and we’re sitting on the other side of the room, no one wanted to go and ask anyone. It was pathetic when you think about it. Now, all of a sudden, the girls are here, and none of us knew they were even going to be there until just
before we came back to school. So it was disruptive, but it was a good learning experience and I would have loved it if Downlands had been a co-educational school when I got there in year eight and had just grown up with that. I came out of one. I didn’t see anything, there was nothing odd about being in one. It was probably more odd being in an all-male boarding school than the converse of it. Then all of a sudden, having
been all-male for four years, and then being co-ed in your last year, was quite disruptive.
So you leave school.
I had no idea what I wanted to do because I was only ever going to join the army and I was going to go to Duntroon. I had no intention of ever joining as a soldier. I was going to go as an officer
and that was it. I didn’t know about Portsea. No one had ever told me about Portsea. So I had to find something else to do. I applied for a job with an accounting firm in Toowoomba and they were going to put me through accounting because I could still go to the institute, but I couldn’t go to the university. They were going to put me through accounting, sort of like an articled clerk, but as an accountant. I went for that job and got it.
The person who conducted the interview was a rugby union referee at the uni [university], and I’m not saying that’s the only reason, but I got that job. I’d also received a teacher’s scholarship, which I said no to. Then a friend of mine rang me up and said he was going to teachers college because they were opening one in Toowoomba at the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education. He said there were 160 students, 130 of whom were women, and he was going to take his
scholarship. I said, “Sounds good to me.” So I rang the accounting firm up and I said, “I got a better deal.” So off I went to teachers’ college. It took about five seconds for me to realise there was no way in the world this was going to work, but we had such a great time I couldn’t leave until the end of the year. I ended up leaving at the end of the year and I went off to Brisbane and I was working, I got a labourer’s job down there
whilst I was trying to work out what I was going to do next. Then I heard about Portsea.
How did you hear about Portsea?
I don’t know to be honest with you. Someone said, “Why don’t you go to Portsea?” I didn’t know about it and I enquired and found out about it. So I went and saw the recruiters, put in the application forms, went to the selection board and was accepted. After receiving a telegram to say that I’d been accepted, I received another telegram to say that on the height/weight/age scale, I needed to lose about three
stone, or four stone, or some ridiculous amount or I couldn’t go. So I went back to the recruiting officer and he said, “I expected you’d come back. This is ridiculous. Go and see this doctor. He will certify that there’s no way you can get down to this weight. Look, you might need to lose a bit, but there’s no way you can go down to this weight.” I went and saw this very old doctor and he said, “What do you want?” I told him. He said, “I don’t make the rules.” I said, “Yeah, but they’re saying I’ve got to get down to 12 and a half
stone. I was 14 and a half stone when I went for the Duntroon scholarship and was accepted. That was two or three years ago.” He said, “I don’t make the rules. They’ve obviously researched this, and if they reckon you can get down to that, you should be able to get down to it.” So he wouldn’t certify anything. Being a bit pigheaded, I didn’t go back to recruiting, I thought, “If they send me the travel documents, I’ll go to Portsea, if they don’t, I won’t.” So I then joined the public service and I was going to do law through the justice department.
But to do that you had to do 12 months working in the public service before you could go onto that program. That 12 months was certainly more than enough for me to realise that I didn’t want to be a public servant.
Interviewee: Patrick McIntosh Archive ID 2450 Tape 02
At the teachers’ college there was a big ration of women. What kind of fun did you get up to in that year?
That was another great year. There were a lot of our friends from Downlands had gone onto, not teachers’ college, a couple of us did, but to the institute. Because while they mightn’t have matriculated, they had
enough points to do that, so we had a lot of people at the university who were doing things that they had not originally intended to do and therefore were probably not as committed to doing what they were doing. So it was a great year. We partied hard and really enjoyed ourselves. I would have to say that I didn’t spend a lot of time attending the teacher education classes. When they assigned
me year two for my prac [practical] class, that definitely confirmed in my mind that I don’t think I was cut out to be a teacher.
Why is that? What is year two like?
The year twos are lovely little kids, but when you get there and they’re told by their teacher that the prac teacher is not allowed to hit them and all this sort of thing, so you’re standing there and you’re telling the kids to do this and they just won’t do it. They tended to do it for me because of my attitude, but
I was teaching with another girl. Every time that other girl would get up they’d steal her notes from the desk and it was just shocking. I wasn’t there for the right reasons. I wasn’t there to be a teacher. I went there for the wrong reasons, because I didn’t know at that point what the hell I was going to do with my life. That seemed like a good interesting 12 months.
Very soon after the year started, probably after a couple of months, I knew I was never going to finish this. Then me and this other guy I had gone in with, we decided we may as well do the year if we’re on scholarship anyway. So we did the year and left at the end of that year. So it was a good year. I enjoyed that university environment. We played a lot of sport, attended a lot of parties, met some really great people and then had a good time. But it was never
my intention to become a teacher.
This is 1972. What was the popular culture like in the university? Was it flower power?
No, not a lot of that. I think we’d gone a little bit past that by that stage. It was more just a party attitude. We had a lot of
functions on at the university which were very well attended. I’m not sure whether they still are these days, but we never missed any, I don’t think. A lot of those sorts of things happening in the university environment. And I think just typical university life, a lot of things going on within the groups that you were part of. A lot of sport being played at the university. The university had rugby teams and other sporting teams. So
we all got involved in those things. It was very social. There weren’t the protests and all those sorts of things, the flower power era had gone. It was just the ‘60s and ‘70s music, a lot of functions, discos, that sort of thing. It was just all good fun.
What was the attitude at the time about what was going on around Vietnam?
in ‘72. So when I was there in ’72, Vietnam had basically come to an end, so a lot of the protest about Vietnam and that sort of thing had been happening in the previous years, so Vietnam was very much on the backburner by that stage. I don’t recall that ever being an issue while I was there.
What about before that, during the protest era, what did you think of what was going on?
We never got exposed to it because I was at boarding school. We just never saw TV [television]. There wasn’t a TV room that you could go to. You never got home. You were only allowed home one weekend per quarter then you had your holiday periods, and I spent most of those on cadet camps, so I very rarely saw a movie, very rarely watched TV. You didn’t have access to newspapers and all that sort of thing.
These days they probably would have, but in those days you didn’t. So you were very, very isolated from everything. The best you were going to get was you might have a radio. So I guess you could say we were pretty well closeted from what was happening out there in the real world. You’d see a little bit of it on TV, I guess, when you came home on holidays, but that was really about it.
Did it affect your ambitions of going into the army?
really, because I was old enough to be up for conscription before Vietnam finished. It was only the fact that my birth date didn’t get picked out that I didn’t end up being conscripted in the army and sent off to Vietnam. I had not great desire to go off to Vietnam, but if I was conscripted, I would have gone, I certainly wouldn’t have said no. I guess I could be accused of not really
researching the causes of Vietnam. I understand why we were there and I think it’s fairly typical these days with hindsight, to say that we should never have been there. But at the time there was a push from the Communist north through southeast Asia and there was a Communist movement being raised in Indonesia. There was a Communist insurgency
in Malaysia. There was a Communist north trying to take over the Communist south in Vietnam, a hint that it would probably push on into Laos and other places if that were to occur. So it didn’t happen, but who’s to know that if Vietnam didn’t occur that it might not have. Nobody can say that for sure. I know there are a lot of other reasons why we were there, because of America, and America were there for
probably some wrong reasons. But I don’t think anybody was really thinking rationally about all those issues and probably weren’t in full possession of the facts anyway. I certainly wasn’t at the time. I just took at face value, this is why we’re doing it, and I wasn’t about it rush off to Vietnam, but if I’d been conscripted to go I would have done what I was required to do.
What was the attitude to Communism at the time?
My attitude to
Communism is the same as it is now, I don’t think it can work. Practically it can’t work, and I’m a very practical person. It’s a very theoretical model that only works for the benefit of a very few, the elite within the Communist movement. And it’s been proven not to work. Even the Socialist states of today just changed the name because they know Communism hasn’t got a good name, but Socialism is just Communism. Those Socialist states have become
more market-oriented because it’s really the only thing that can work. People need and want to have some say in their future and not leave it to some elite who feel that they’re better able to regulate the lives of the masses. I’ve never been in favour of that form of government ever. I don’t think it’s got any hope of working, and it’s been demonstrated that it can’t work. So that was my attitude then and it hasn’t changed since.
Any of your mates get called up?
No, I was a bit older than the others because I went to high school later.
Finished with teacher’s college and you’re in the public service for a while. Then you got interest in, that was after you…?
They never contacted me again after I
was sent off to see the doctor about the, the height/weight/age scale had been around for a long time. It’s still a problem today. In those days the height only went up to six foot one. So if you were six foot five, I assume the other four inches didn’t weigh anything. I’m 19 or 20, whatever it was at that point, and I should have been about 12 stone by their scale. I wasn’t. I was playing A grade rugby at the time, so I wasn’t
fat, I wasn’t unfit, but I was probably about 16 stone. If they’d said to me, “Get down to 15 stone, or 14 and a half stone.” I would have done that just to get in and then gone back up to my normal weight afterwards. But getting down to about 12 stone was physically impossible for me to do, but this doctor wouldn’t certify that. I could have gone back and they could have sent me off to another doctor, but I didn’t.
And they never contacted me. So as a result of that, I then went and joined the public service, because law was something I had a bit of an interest in as well, and again I couldn’t go to university to do it because I’d failed to matriculate by that one point, I had to look at some other method of doing law, and the justice department was offering a process where you could join the justice department and work within the justice department and they would put you through a law program. But you had to do 12 months working as a public servant.
So you studied law.
I didn’t study law. I left before the 12 months were up. It wasn’t a good experience for me. They put me into the accounts section of the justice department and they had just combined the justice department and the prison departments, and they combined the accounts sections of both departments. There was probably enough work for half of a department and certainly not two departments. So we virtually did
all the work we had to do in about two days of the week and the rest of the time we just sat there twiddling our thumbs. This went on for months and months and they said, “Sooner or later they’re going to send a team here to do a work study to work out how much work there is and how big the staff needs to be.” We were told to do the work that was urgent and put all the work that wasn’t urgent aside so that when this team came in we could all be working busy. This would preserve our jobs,
and no doubt the classification of our bosses, so we all did that. When this team eventually arrived we had to pull all this stuff out of the bottom drawer and be industrious, and I was. When they interviewed me they said, “Is this typical of your workload?” I said, “No.” They said, “Well, why have you got so much work to do?” “Because I’ve been putting it in the bottom drawer waiting for you guys to come.” This didn’t go over very well. So I was offered a job at a place I’d never heard of.
I just chose to leave because basically as soon as I did that, I knew I was out. I couldn’t abide the culture, the fact that there was no work ethic, the fact that there clearly wasn’t enough work to be done for the number of people that were there, and everyone was hell bent on making sure that people weren’t reassigned to another job, because they were protected classification. Whether that was typical of the public service at the time, I don’t know, but it was certainly typical of
the part of the public service I was working in, and that wasn’t for me and I left.
Where did you go to next?
I think I decided to go up to work in Weipa for a couple of years. I thought I’d just go up there and make some money and see where I’d go from there. So another mate of mine from Downlands who was in basically the same position as I was, wasn’t able to go to uni because he didn’t get the
points he needed, so we both went up. We got to Bowen when Weipa went on strike. This would have been about ‘73. There was a major strike up there which went on for about three or six months. So we got to Bowen and we thought there was no sense going onto Weipa from here because there was no work up here. We may as well stay where we can get some work until Weipa goes off strike. We were there for about three months working at the meat works and
staying with a friend of ours from Downlands. I’d had a bit of an altercation on the first day that I arrived. We went to a hotel with this friend of our and were having a drink. There was a very large islander at the bar who was looking over at our table. Everyone at the table, the locals, were quite scared of this guy. You could see them talking to each other. We said, “What’s the matter?” They said, “He’s not meant to be here. He’s been banned from the pub.”
“Why doesn’t someone throw him out?” They said, “Because he’s a very dangerous person.” Anyway, to cut a long story short, he eventually came over to our table and walked around the table and put his finger in everybody’s drink and just kept walking around the table. But he was looking at me the whole time he did it and he started off to my left and I just kept looking at him. He came all the way around the table until he got to my right. If he’d put his finger in my drink it would have
been on, but he didn’t, and he went back to the bar. He was just staring at me. Everyone said, “Watch out. He’s going to get you.” I said, “I haven’t done anything to him.” They said, “No, just be careful, he’s really dangerous.” This went on for about three months. Every time I’d go to a pub he’d be looking at me. I just gave up on it. After about three months we were at a pub one night celebrating our friend’s 21st birthday. We’d had a few drinks and he obviously thought that I’d had a few more
than I had. He came over and he king hit me while I was sitting down in a chair. I don’t know what happened after that. I just remember when I came to I was punching into him and he was in a pretty bad way. They pulled us apart and he was in a very bad way at this point, so they threw him out of the pub. That night at a cabaret at the hotel, the local
indigenous community decided they were going to come and get me for this. They broke into the pub. I was pulled out the back by the bouncers, put into the back of a car and took me to the police and the police ordered me out of town. They said, “We’ll look after you tonight. Don’t be here tomorrow night.” So I was run out of town, which I thought was unbelievable in Australia in the ‘70s. So Weipa was still not off strike. I rang my father up, and he was getting a bit
frustrated with me at this point and said, “Come home you idiot.” So I came home and that’s what I ended up working on the farm for about another 18 months. My friend ended up staying in Bowen for, it was about another couple of months before Weipa went off strike and then he went onto Weipa to work. I wasn’t able to stay there. So I never got to Weipa and I ended up, as a result of that altercation, back on the farm and worked on the farm then for about 18 months, before I did eventually then
go to Portsea.
What about your rugby career during this time?
When I was at Downlands I played First 15 with Downlands schoolboys. When I was at the uni I played with the university team and then I went to Brisbane. Because I was only doing things for about six months blocks I wasn’t able to really get into a proper team there. But when I came back to the farm I
played A grade rugby up in Toowoomba for the Rangers for the rest of the time before I went and joined the army. So there was a few breaks in the rugby career over that period, but when I came back and was in one location for long enough. I kept playing all the way through, it’s just that if you’re going to get into A grade you’ve got to basically be there and be available for the whole season and be able to train with the team.
I enjoyed my rugby and played it whenever I could.
What was the process for Portsea this time?
Same process. The reason I went, I was up in Toowoomba when I was on the farm, just shopping or something in Toowoomba. I ran into a warrant officer for the army who had retired. He recognised me from being in charge of the cadet unit down there because he was an army warrant officer who had been
assigned to look after that cadet unit. He grabbed me and said, “You’re supposed to be at Duntroon.” He could tell by the hair that I wasn’t. I said, “No, I didn’t matriculate so I couldn’t go.” He said, “So why didn’t you go to Portsea?” I said, “I didn’t know about it, but then I did and this is what happened.” He said, “How old are you?” I said, “I’m 22.” He said, “When are you 22 and a half?” I said, “In June.” He said, “In June.” He said, “The last intake for you.” because the maximum age to go to Portsea was 22 and a half, “Is June, so if you still want to join the army
you’re going to have to go down there and apply for Portsea.” I thought, “OK.” I knew I didn’t want to be a farmer and I thought, “OK, I’ll give it one more go.” So I went and saw them, went to the selection board, passed it. This is three selection boards that I’ve passed now. They called me in straight away after the first meeting of the selection board and said, “Pat, we want to know why you didn’t turn up to Portsea two years ago.
You were marked AWL [Absent Without Leave] when you didn’t arrive.” I said, “I was accepted by the selection board. I then received this telegram telling me I couldn’t go unless I lost the weight. No one ever sent me the travel requisitions. No one ever contacted me again.” They went off and checked all this out. They had no idea. The army had no idea about this; it was some public servant who had decided that I was too heavy. They had no idea. They just marked me as having failed to attend.
So they came back, they’d checked that out and they said, “We’re really sorry about this, we had no idea. Look, you’ve been accepted, don’t listen to what anybody tells you, and you are to turn up. If you don’t get the travel requisitions make sure you contact someone. You are going.” So I did, and I got there right on the maximum age for civilian entry into course. It was four and a half years from when I should have gone to Duntroon. So it was a hard way
of making a career out of the army, A, going to Portsea versus going to Duntroon, but going to Portsea four and a half years after you should have gone to Duntroon. It was not the best way to launch a career, I can say.
What was it like to finally be there?
It was great. I was used to that sort of, I’d been to an all-male boarding school, in those days it was all male. I was
extremely fit. I’d been working really hard on the farm, I trained every morning and every afternoon playing A-grade rugby. Fitness is one of the big issues when you go to something like an officer cadet training establishment. If you’re not fit, doing everything they’re trying to get you to do, and build fitness, puts a lot of pressure on you. If you’re fit then you’ve got no problem. Because of my cadet unit experience as well I knew how to spit polish boots, I knew how to iron to the required standard, I knew how to wear a uniform,
I knew a lot of the things they were going to teach you to do. I could shoot already, so it really wasn’t hard at all. I liked the environment and did very well there. I was significantly more mature than the others. There was a handful of us, I guess, right up at that tail-end of the age bracket, so I had a lot more life experience than most.
It was a good time.
Having more life experience than most, did they look up to you or try to get knowledge from you about things?
Yeah, I think they did. Some of these people had never left home in their lives. They hadn’t been to boarding school, they had never left mum and dad, they were still living with mum and dad. Then all of a sudden they’re thrown into this very rigid discipline environment and some of them were having some considerable difficulty coping with that. So in and environment like that
where you’ve got others that are clearly quite at home in this environment, then you tend to find yourself helping out those that aren’t. That’s just the environment you’re in. You’re expected to help out those that need your help. I guess I was quite willing to do that simply because I was never under pressure physically or in terms of what we were learning to do, so I had spare time to be able to help others who were under pressure and I didn’t mind doing that.
Was there anything like trying to break you down like shouting or…?
No, it wasn’t too bad. I was lucky because of rugby. The first day we arrived there, also the second day, the Portsea rugby union team was off playing Monash University in Melbourne. And for the first month that you’re at Portsea you can’t go anywhere, you can’t do anything, you’ve just got to run everywhere.
There’s a lot of pressure on in that first week to get your room sorted, your uniform sorted and all that sort of thing. You weren’t allowed to play sport, but because of my reputation they wanted me in the team. They said, “McIntosh, you’re an exception, you can go and play rugby.” So here I am down in Melbourne playing rugby with the first years, the seniors, going to the pub afterwards with them, and all the rest of them were back there to bogging boots, getting all that. On the way back I thought, “God, I’m going to
have to kill myself tomorrow to have to catch up on all the stuff that these guys have been doing.” I got back and my room was all sorted and everything was done. That was the approach. If one of your mates can’t do it for some reason, you help him out. So I got back and everything’s been done. They weren’t impressed. They were there being treated the way they were and I’m off playing rugby and having drinks with the seniors. But there were opportunities throughout the
year for me to help people back for doing that sort of thing. Generally speaking we weren’t yelled at and degraded or anything like that. It wasn’t that kind of an environment. I know people think that it is. It’s only the people that can’t cope that believe that they’re being bastardised. If you’re on top of it, if you’ve got your act together, you’re doing all the things that you’re meant to do, you’re organising your life to make sure that
everything you are meant to have done is being done, then really, there’s no problem. It’s only those who are not capable of organising their lives that find themselves constantly in trouble. They get extra duties, which then takes more of the spare time that they would have had for other things. The whole thing just builds up on them to a point where they either get their act together or they break. I guess the system is pretty much designed, because it’s a 12-month course you haven’t really got a lot
of time. You can’t give them a couple of years to sort themselves out, so you’ve got to work out whether they’re going to make it or not fairly quickly. A lot didn’t make it, but most did. I never found it to be an environment where I ever felt that I was being bastardised. In the second year I was one of the leaders of the cadets and I certainly would never have allowed that to occur in my time.
Was there an initiation ceremony or anything like that?
Not really. There’s no initiation ceremony. There are a couple of ceremonies we had. We had 100-days-to-go celebration where the junior class could do what they wanted to the senior class. That was quite an interesting celebration. But no, there was no initiation. There were certain things that you had to do in that first
period of time. For instance, for the first month you weren’t allowed to walk, you had to run everywhere. One of the reasons for that was that with what they were trying to get you to do in that period, you virtually had to run everywhere to get it done. You had 10 minutes between whenever the periods were. That didn’t matter whether you were down in a lesson in one uniform and the next period was in physical training gear down at the gym.
You had 10 minutes to get from the lecture room, back up into your room, get changed into your PT [Physical Training] gear and get down to the gym. You couldn’t just tear off the stuff and throw it in your room, the stuff you took off had to be hung up and the room had to be left neat and you had to be down there. When you first get told this, I just accepted this sort of thing fairly well, but a lot of them said, “This is impossible.” And the whole thing was designed to tell you that it wasn’t impossible if you
organised yourself and made sure the gear you were going to be using for the next lesson is sitting pretty, ready to go. If you go fast enough you can get it done. That was an initiation ceremony in itself, but it was an institutionalised one, that first month. You’re under an enormous amount of pressure and it’s all designed to make sure you get your act together. That you learn about the current activities and all this sort of thing, they’re going to teach you that the hard way. There weren’t army officer or NCOs
yelling at you the whole time you were there, there weren’t senior class people screaming at you or anything like that. That wasn’t going on.
What were you learning about becoming and officer and leadership?
That was what the training was really all about. Part of the training was just teaching you normal military skills and tactics and all that sort of thing, and a large part of it was learning leadership. We had leadership roles
within the school. Within Portsea it was two six-month halves. So the first six months you’re the junior, the second six months you were the senior. In the senior class you had all the leadership positions in the cadet school. The army officers and NCOs taught the lessons and things like that, but they were very much in the background. So the school was run by the senior class. So there was a chief, they
call the BSM [Battalion Sergeant Major], and there were two companies, and each of those were commanded by a company sergeant major. I was one of the company sergeant majors in my senior year. So I was responsible for, I led half of the school. All the others had positions, they were corporals in charge of a section, platoons sergeants in charge of platoons and that sort of thing. And we ran the college. So in the first year you were
learning from how others did the job, and we had some people in charge of us in our second year who you could tell we were never going to make it as an officer because they just didn’t have the leadership skills. So there was a learning experience in that in itself, because you got a feel for what worked and what didn’t. Because you’d see all these different examples of people trying to exercise leadership and a lot of them had never had an opportunity to do that before, and you could see that some approaches worked and some didn’t work. So you were able to learn from that. Then when you went on,
then you had to demonstrate your own leadership potential in that first six months as well because you then had to be selected by the college staff for your appointment in the next year. So the better leaders obviously got the better jobs. So it was learning leadership quite practically just by the way the college operated, the school operated, plus there was a lot of technical lessons on leadership and
a lot of history, learning about military leaders from the past and how they did it. The ones that were successful and the ones that weren’t.
What was a memorable lesson that shaped your leadership later in life?
To be honest with you, I don’t think that Portsea, from my recollection, taught me all that much about leadership because I’d
been four years in the cadets, I was in charge of a cadet unit, I’m talking about having 500 students underneath me and I’m in charge of it. I think that taught me a lot more about leadership trying to get people that you didn’t have any direct authority over, I’m one of you, and trying to get them to do things. Whereas in a military environment where you do have that rank and authority, people have really not got much choice but to do what you tell them to do, what you really want them to do is to try and get them to do it even if you didn’t have
that authority. In terms of the memorable aspects, I don’t recall leaving Portsea with any different view on how I would lead soldiers than what I had when I got there. It just reinforced things for me that I had been learning for several years.
What was the next step after Portsea?
The next step, I went to 8/9 RAR, which was an infantry battalion in Brisbane. I was appointed to be a rifle platoon commander, which was the first step once you graduated. I did that for 18 months. I was then moved over into support company to command the anti-armament platoon. I was pulled out of there, I only did
18 months in the battalion. You usually do two or three years, but I had a fairly short stint in the battalion and then went off to the 1st Task Force down in Sydney. I wasn’t happy about that move. I would have preferred to have had a little bit longer time in the battalion because you do spend all this time training to command a platoon of soldiers. As a lieutenant, you’ve got 30 soldiers, they’re yours, they’re trained, and lead. You
certainly hope to be able to do that for a reasonable period of time - 18 months was a little bit less than the norm.
How did you find being in the field as a young officer at first?
The only daunting thing I found about it, when I first started, I remember the first day that I went to the company that I was assigned to and
I went and met the major, Major Green, who was in charge of the company. He welcomed me to the company and told me I was going to be platoon commander of 4 Platoon. Off I went to 4 Platoon. He called me back over after a while and said, “Why aren’t you training?” I said, “I wanted to talk to you about that. What’s the program? What are we meant to be training to do?” He said, “It’s your bloody job to train that platoon. Go and train them.”
I thought this was really odd that here am I, brand new, coming in there, and it’s my job to go and train these soldiers. Yes, it is my job to train them, but surely we’ve got a program that we’re training to. Surely we’ve worked out what task it is that we have to be able to perform and there’s a task that these guys have been trained to do and some they haven’t and there’s a program. “No, you just go and train.” That was the attitude. So I went back and saw the platoon sergeant and worked out a
training program and off we went and trained. That was a very good learning experience for me because I’ve since found throughout my whole military career, that’s essentially what people are doing. They’re working hard, they’re training hard, they’re not necessarily training for things that are relevant, and they’re not necessarily training for things that they can’t do, which I found to be really odd as a brand new lieutenant. So that was a good lesson for me because
from that point on, for every command that I had, I made sure that there was a very objective approach applied to what we trained for and how we trained. So that was a good lesson for me. But in terms of leading the soldiers, I had no trouble with that at all. I was never aloof with the soldiers. My background was such that I could get on with the best of them. I was always distant from them as officers should
be. It was never first names, it was always ‘Sir’, and I’d call them by their rank and name. But there was nothing that they could do to shock me because of all the things that I’d done in my life before that time. They never knew about any of those things, but they’re always trying to shock their officers, and they found it very hard to do that with me.
What examples do you have?
Some of the things that these soldiers get up to are just amazing. They’ll be telling you
about these things that they had done in their lives. I haven’t told you half the things I’ve done in mine. They’re just looking for a reaction and you’ve just got to take it in your stride. If you’ve had a fairly full life some of these things that these guys were telling you they’d been doing, they’d never believe half the things you’ve done yourself and you don’t want them to know about it, but some of them are fairly rough.
They’ve had some sort of fairly rough upbringing. They just like to try and shock the young platoon commander if they can. They didn’t really manage to achieve that with me.
Are we talking criminal things, sexual exploits?
A bit of everything. You’d be amazed where some of these people have been.
your cards close to your chest?
I am on this one, yeah.
So there was no sense of needing to prove yourself?
No. I was a very good shot so I could outshoot them. These are the sort of things they do. You go to the range and say, “Come on, Sir. You going to show off what you can do here?” I said, “Who’s the best out of your group?” I said, “I guarantee you I can beat you.” “Bullshit.” “OK, have a
shoot. I want to see who the best is.” Then you go and shoot against them and win. So there was no, and I knew I could, there was never any issue with that sort of thing. I was very fit and I made them be fit. I used to do exercises before I started the day, we would then do our exercise, training with the platoon, then I would take those that fell out of that training for
more training at the end of the day after work, so fitness was never an issue. I was playing rugby still at this point. I was very good at the field skills. An officer is meant to be at least as good as the soldier - not necessarily better than him, but you need to be able to do all the things you ask them to do. I could certainly do that. I was always willing to look after their interests and I’ve certainly always had a reputation for that. I’d take anybody
on I needed to take on to look after their interests and they knew I’d do that. I was always very tough in terms of discipline. They knew exactly where they stood with me right from the first moment because I told them and I never compromised. Soldiers are funny beasts. You can be really tough with them as long as they know where you’re coming from and they know that you’re going to be consistent. They’ll take whatever you dish out as long as it’s
considered to be fair and consistent. I was always that. It comes down I guess to how they can get on with you, whether they feel that they can come and talk to you and tell you what needs to be said. I’ve always been willing for people to criticise so long as they’re doing it constructively. If they’ve got a view, if there’s a better way of doing something, I insist on them coming up and telling me about it, and if I’m not going to do it that way, I’ll tell them why so they understand why I’m doing it
so they’ve got a say in how we do things. I never take credit for anything that they’ve done. There’s a bunch of leadership things that you learn at a very young age, and if you apply them consistently, the soldiers know that you’ve got somebody here who’s not a prima donna, he’s not squeaky clean. In those days we had a lot of young officers who were fairly wild. I’d say I was probably in the
wild category… that was the reason I ended up leaving the battalion a bit earlier than I should have - altercation with a senior officer in the mess - and found myself on a posting very soon after. But we were a wild bunch, but what they wanted was for your officers to be wild but to be competent, to get the job done and do it very professionally, and to look after the soldiers.
And we did that. I’m not saying just me. I was very lucky to be in a battalion where there were a significant number of platoon commanders who were like that. We had a great relationship with our soldiers and NCOs, not such a great relationship with the senior officers in the battalion, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Interviewee: Patrick McIntosh Archive ID 2450 Tape 03
What makes a wild officer?
I think it’s your ability to challenge the system. Not necessarily to just sit there and take whatever you’re asked to do. There were a number in our battalion who were willing to do that, so if we didn’t agree
with how we were meant to perform a task we would be very vocal about that. If we didn’t agree with the way soldiers were being treated we would take whatever steps were necessary to look after their interests. In the field, if the workload wasn’t being distributed equitably then it worry me if they wanted me to go out and do tasks one after another, but I had 30 soldiers under me, and if I felt that my platoon was getting more work
than another platoon I’d go and make representation to the company commander. We tended to play hard. In those days I think people did that more so than they do now. The mess was a very live place to be. The soldiers in those days would act as the stewards in the mess - we now have stewards who do that job. Your soldiers would be rostered
on to act as stewards in the mess. They would get to see some of the antics that went on in the mess. So they just viewed the officers’ mess as some place that was full of pomp and ceremony, and it was. On occasions it was very different, so it was an opportunity for the soldiers to see what their officers do after hours. But we played sports with the soldiers.
If you weren’t a very good officer you’d be pretty silly to go and play a contact sport with the soldiers, because that’s an opportunity for them to go and sort you out. So you find yourself on the rugby field. You’ve not only got 15 people on the other side trying to do something to you, but you’ve got 14 others on your side who are willing to help them. When you’re down there at the grassroots level, working and living with the soldiers, and playing contact sport
with the soldiers and acting as their mentors and protectors, what they like to see is somebody who has basically been there who hasn’t had the silver spoon in their mouth all the way up, which is what they tended to view an officer as. But someone who’s really competent in their job, someone who’s going to fight for their rights, and someone who’s able to go out and have a drink with them,
and someone they don’t mind socialising with and playing sport with. We were very fortunate in that we had a large number of platoon commanders who were in that category. I really enjoyed the time.
What antics were the soldiers witnessing in the officers’ mess?
Every mess in those days had things that were particular to that mess. The mess we had at 8/9 RAR was an old Queensland building that had been converted into an officers’ mess
and it was a lovely old building. The mess was on the second storey. So one of the tricks of the mess, or the competition, was that you’d scull a 10-ounce beer at the bar, dive through the window at the side of the bar, and we’re a storey up here, avoid the concrete path at the bottom and try and land on the grass if you could and come around and jump up the stairs, back into the bar and
scull another beer. There was a time for that, so everyone had to do this. Then we had competitions with others from other messes, when they came around to your mess they were required to do it as well. I was very fortunate to hold the record for that. It was quite a dangerous event, because if you dived out the window and hit the eave you would bowl straight down to the concrete path and drain and path below. So there were quite a few
people taken off to hospital in the process of this. We also used to play mess rugby, where we’ve got to move the furniture out of the anteroom mess and divide ourselves into a couple of teams and play proper tackle rugby inside the mess, which was very dangerous. After a dining in night we’d be playing these sorts of games you’d find a fairly large number of platoon commanders over at the hospital the next day
getting stitches and patched up and getting arms reset and things like that. The soldiers would be acting as stewards and watching this quite childish behaviour, but it was what every mess used to do, things like that. Stopping fans with your head and all these silly little things like that.
I have to ask what the record is.
I can’t remember what the record was. It’s probably since
been broken, but it was pretty slick.
You’re talking seconds. It only takes a couple of seconds to scull a beer, dive out the window, you’re not climbing down it, you’re basically diving out, and you sprint around, back up the steps and get another one down. You’re talking certainly less than a minute.
A lot of kudos for yourself there?
Absolutely. You have to, if you’re going to go in these things,
you need to try and fit in. I was lucky. When I was at the institute at teachers college they had a competition up there orientation day called the ‘rough and rush’ where you had to run down Ruston Street, which is a very long street, and I think there are 52 pubs, I can’t remember, it was a large number of pubs, and you were allowed to be driven from the first pub to the second pub, which was at the top, then you had to run from the second to the second last
and you could get a lift from the second last to the last and you had to have a beer in each one of those pubs as you were running. I forget the number, but it was a lot of pubs. I was very fortunate to hold the record for that. It becomes a sort of being reasonably fit, and also rather large, you have a fair amount of capacity.
You had an advantage.
Very much so.
What would they do to the older students at the 100-day initiation?
There were limits on what they could do. They couldn’t hurt anybody. When I was in charge in the second half of the year I took all the junior class out to the fort, which is right down the end, there were some buildings down there, and I
took them down by bus because it was a fair distance, and I told them they had a clean-up job they had to do down there. They knew that I was lying, but they weren’t really sure enough not to go. So the senior class is testing them as well, to see just how far they’re willing to push it. If that had happened in my class we would have never gone, we’d know what was going to happen. But I made them go and they went. As they were all marching down from the road to these buildings where they were supposedly
do some clean up, we turned the buses around and left. So they knew straight away that we were in for it. That morning they’d taken my room and put them down in the parade ground and they’d set my room up exactly as it was on the parade ground. So when I got back I thought, “OK, I know what’s going to happen to my room on the parade ground when these guys get back.” We then went and took the rooms of one of the key ringleaders in the junior class and
replaced my room down on the parade ground with his and put mine back in my room. So when these guys got back they saw the room still sitting down on the parade ground, so they went and got fire hydrants and they hosed it down and they thrashed it. Then, when the guy got back to his room he opened the door and his room was not there. He then realised that they’d just saturated and thrashed his own room. Needless to say I found it was a good point not to be there,
so we’d gone to the pub, and I knew exactly what I was going to find when I got back, and my room was not in a good state. But that’s the sort of thing that they got up to. So in this case they weren’t up to really challenging us, so in that case, when they had the opportunity to take it out on us and here we are, taking them out to the fort and making them walk back and then thrashing their own room. That’s the sort of thing. They couldn’t do really nasty things,
but it was some way of just demonstrating that they can get away with things on that day. On that occasion I think we probably got the better hand.
Why did you have no intention of joining the army as a soldier?
I don’t know. I always had an intention of
joining the army as an officer, and at no point did I ever consider joining as a soldier. If I had not been successful in going to Portsea on that last occasion I would have never joined the army. I guess I considered a career as an officer in the army, I never considered a career as a soldier in the army.
What were your beliefs about the soldiers?
I like soldiers, but
I believe that if you’ve got officer qualities, then effectively your ambition is to become an officer in the army and not to join up as a soldier and, “I’ve got the education, I might work my way up and become an officer.” My preference has always been that an officer should go through the officer cadet system at Duntroon or Portsea or whatever it is
and be an officer from the outset. It’s very hard I think for soldiers to become officers because they’re working with soldiers, they learn a lot of soldier tendencies, and all of a sudden they’ve got to put all those aside when they become an officer because it’s a very different job. I don’t know, I’m not anti-soldier by any stretch of the imagination, I just never had any ambition to be a soldier in the army. I’d certainly had ambition to be an officer
in the army, but never to be a soldier.
How did your parents react as you got into Portsea?
My parents were very supportive. They didn’t understand the military system all that well. When I was a colonel my Mum asked me, “When you think you’ll get promoted to major?” Stuff like that. Really had no idea. “I was one of those a few years ago, Mum.” “Oh, were you?”
“I’ve just been promoted to brigadier, Mum.” “Have you really? Is that better than major?” “Yes, Mum.” Dad sort of had some idea of the rank structures and things like that, but Mum had no idea. They were very proud, I guess, as I progressed through the system, but by no means were they ever up with what the military system in terms of its honours and its
ranks and things like that. I’d tell them what I’d done and it’d just go over their head. They knew that I was doing OK, but that was about it.
After 8/9 RAR, you didn’t leave there kind of…?
No, it wasn’t a very planned move as such.
We had a Christmas function in the mess and we invited all the other units from the brigade area to the mess. A selection of the officer from each of the messes, basically we suggested to them that they might want to try and break the record for the drink a beer, dive out the window.
Did (UNCLEAR) that competition?
No, I don’t think it did.
So a selection, one or two officers from each of the different units said, “Yes, I can bloody do that.” There was this little engineer who was particularly painful, he was a captain, he decided that he could definitely break the record. He did a pretty good job, but he didn’t reach the record. So out he went and up he came and said, “No one could have beaten that.” The operations officer who was there said, “I’m sorry, mate, you’re well short of the record.” He said, “You’re lying.
There’s no way anybody could have done it better than that. You’re lying. That record does not exist.” We’re all sitting over it the bar having a drink. The major, the operations officer looked over and said, “Are you guys going to let him get away with that?” This idiot takes his shirt off, “Like hell, I’m ready for this.” and he takes his shirt off. I thought, “Well, I’m the one with the record so I suppose he’s insulting me more than anybody else. So as he’s in the process of taking his shirt off I just stepped forward and decked him.
As I did that the waters parted and the commanding officers from all the units, who had been downstairs drinking, walked in the room and here’s me standing over this guy on the ground. He did the right thing them. He got up, put his shirt on and went out and he didn’t complain. There was no issue. I slunk back to the bar and there was nothing said until the next day when I was posted to Sydney. Everyone went on leave that day,
the duty officer rang me and said, “Do you know about a posting to Sydney?” I said, “No, I’ve just been appointed to commanding (UNCLEAR).” He said, “You’ve been posted to Sydney.” I said, “I’m not going.” He said, “You’ve got no choice. He’s the commanding officer, he won’t see you.” I said, “Good, give him a message from me and tell him I refuse to go to Sydney.” It went on for about three months, but I was eventually made to go and I did go. That was just (UNCLEAR).
Did you get to talk to him about it?
No, it was something that
annoyed me in that he didn’t confront me over the issue. The operations officer obviously never cleared the issue with him and said, “Look, this guy was being stupid, I suggested to these blokes they might want to do something about it. There was nothing in it, he’s not complained.” I didn’t hit him in a way that was going to hurt him, it was just to shut him up. It was just handled very badly. And nothing said. That’s what annoyed me. I’ve got no problem. Yell at me.
Take me up to his room, bawl me out, tell me what you’re going to do to me. No ‘off you go’ and ‘I won’t talk to you about it’. So I refused to go and eventually I was made to go. It didn’t matter. I just went on.
How does an army make you go somewhere?
The army has a habit of doing that with me for many years. They can discipline you if you don’t.
They can charge you. You’re given a posting order, the reason it’s got an ‘order’ is because it is an order. If you don’t go, you’re in breach of that order and you get disciplined. If you get charged as an officer it’s pretty much the end of your career. So ultimately, they can execute that order or say, “You didn’t execute this order, you’re in breech of discipline and you’re on a charge.” You can be charged or court-martialled for it. It is a disciplined environment where they can
make you do pretty much whatever they want you to do. The only option you’ve got is to resign. I didn’t really feel like resigning at that point. It was hard enough to get there.
How did you make that process string out for three months?
I said I wouldn’t go and they came back to me and said, “You will go.” Then eventually I said, “OK, if I’m going I’m not going until February because I’m engaged. I’ve got nowhere to live if I go to Sydney.” because when you’re
single you don’t get any marriage accommodation to live in. I said, “If I’m being made to go to Sydney then I’m going to get married before I go.” They said, “You’re leaving now.” I said, “No, I’m going, I’m going to get married first. The earliest I can get married is end of January, so I’ll go end of Feb.” Eventually it was either a case of ‘You charge me or you let me go when it suits me to go.’ and that’s what they ended up doing.
So you’d met your fiancé?
Yeah, I’d met
an English girl who was travelling around Australia. She’d been over here for three years doing her final leg here in Queensland before she went back to England. I’d met her while I was in 8/9 RAR. We got engaged at the end of that first year. It was all planned because she was staying, she got a job and everything was working out quite nicely.
She’d been selected to do a beautician’s course. She had to go through a selection process for it. Because she had nurses training she was able to do a lot of the stuff they wanted her to do. That was the problem, that she was going to do that course during the next year that I was meant to be there in Brisbane. So this moving me early created quite a bit of havoc in terms of our plans for getting married and getting her qualified in that new career and everything else. So that’s why I was as angry
about them making me go as I was.
What was the wedding like?
It was very quickly organised so there was nobody from England to get over. I wanted to use my parents’ garden for the wedding because I wouldn’t allow my wife’s parents to pay because they couldn’t even get over in time for the wedding. So I said, “I’m not going to ask them to pay, so I’ll pay.
I’ve got no money, so we’ll have a garden wedding.” My parents objected to that. “You’ve got to have a proper wedding.” So they insisted that we have it in the church and that we have the proper reception and everything else. I said, “No.” so they said, “We’ll pay.” “OK.” So my parents paid, and as they should, because half the people that were there were their friends, not mine. Lana had a lot of common friends with me as well at that point so it was a great wedding.
We broke the drought. We were thankful we didn’t have it in the garden because it just teemed down with rain all afternoon and all night, which made it a more special occasion because there had been a drought and this was a farming community so all the farmers were willing to let their hair down because the drought was broken. It was a good wedding. There was no honeymoon or anything like that. We just went to the local hotel that night and the next day I think we went to Sydney.
So it wasn’t the way it was meant to be, but unfortunately the army can do those sorts of things to you.
Were you married in uniform?
I refused to do it.
Cos I was angry with them because I was going to Sydney. I’m very pigheaded.
So you’re off to Sydney.
I went down there to be the defence platoon commander in the
brigade headquarters, then called the task force headquarters. There was a headquarter company that had about 100-odd soldiers in it that there was a defence battalion, transport battalion, mechanical engineers, a whole bunch of other sort of people that looked after the headquarters. So I ended up becoming the second in command of that company headquarters. At the same time I was platoon commander for the soldiers and I was the second in charge of the company
looking after all the personal administration. That included for all the officers in the headquarters as well. So it was a staff job, plus a platoon commander’s job. It was quite a demanding job. Far more demanding than the one I’d just left. And it was a good opportunity for me to learn a lot about personnel management system within the army as well because I was responsible for all the personnel management for the headquarters plus the headquarter company.
How did you find that whole system? Was it a good management system?
In those times it was really just a case of me learning what the scene was like. One of the first things I learned because I’ve always taken the approach when I go into a new job, I root myself into it fairly thoroughly. So I defined what it is that my job is and then I go and find out what all the regulations and references are that govern that particular job and I will
study them pretty well so I consider myself to be an expert in whatever the field is. I did that in this personnel management area. When I was doing it I realised I had no career because I’d joined the army so late. They had a certain period of time you had to spend in each rank. There was a cut off age for going to staff college. If you didn’t go to staff college you couldn’t command a battalion
and highly unlikely that you’re going to get promoted beyond the rank of major. I certainly had ambition of going well beyond that so I rang up our head of corps, the director of the infantry, and said, “I read all this stuff and by my reading I don’t have a career.” “I wouldn’t say that.” I said, “Well, I would say it because basically by the rules that exist at the moment I have got no hope of going to staff college therefore I can never command a battalion therefore I have been
recruited under false pretences.” because I had no career. He said, “Under the rules at the moment, yeah, you’re probably right, but they change all the time. I wouldn’t worry about it.” I said, “I am worried about it and I want to see somebody.” So they booked me in to have an interview, which then confirmed exactly what I thought. I had no career. So here I am, 12 months at Portsea, 18 months
at Brisbane, and I realised I’ve got no career. So I applied for a few jobs, and I had no university qualifications at this stage…
Applied for jobs outside the army?
You were intending to…?
I had no intention of staying on in the army unless I had some prospect of getting to command an infantry battalion and go beyond that. So while I had no intention of joining the army as a soldier, I certainly had no intention of joining the army and not progressing up the army chain. I found with the jobs I was going for they said, “What’s your experience?”
I couldn’t exactly call on what I’d done before I joined the army. In fact, I’d rather they not even know about it. Since then, “What have I been doing? Platoon commander, training people to kill. What do you do?” And, “What qualifications have you got?” “None.” So the chances of getting a high-powered job were fairly remote. So they said, “You need to get some experience in a field you’ve related to and get yourself some
qualifications.” So I then went back to uni as a mature age student, at this point I could, and I started doing a Bachelor of Business in resource management. I set myself a time frame of six years to finish it externally so that at the end of my 10 years in the army I’d be able to move. I was still young enough to pursue another career, have a fair amount of experience in a field and be
university qualified. So that’s what I set about to do, and I certainly managed to achieve that. I found later on that the system did change and I was awarded three years seniority. As it turned out, that put me 18 months behind people that I would have been at Duntroon with. By this time I had a degree and I’d done a second degree, I studied
accounting as well and I became a qualified accountant because I didn’t want to be a personnel manager, I wanted to be in general management. They said, “You’ve either got to have economics or accounting or something like that to back up human resource management. That will give you an excellent rounding for general management.” I did all that in the six-year time frame that I’d set myself. At the same time as I was about to resign again, and I didn’t resign, they gave me
three years’ seniority, which then put me back very close to where I would have been had I done Duntroon, and then I’ve got two degrees, which are highly useful degrees, as opposed to something I would have got if I’d done Duntroon. So all of a sudden I’ve pretty much caught up with the people that I would have been with a long time earlier, and I wasn’t disadvantaged by not having degrees, because I had two.
You were really setting yourself up whilst you were still in the army.
I was setting myself up to, once I realised I had no career I wasn’t going to stay on, but I wasn’t silly enough to just leave it without a job and I wasn’t going to go on and take on a job that wasn’t in a field that I felt was going to give me the prospects of getting me into a leadership position
within business. I’ve always been quite interested in business. But again, I wasn’t willing to go and work for somebody well down the rung. If I was going to do it, I wanted to get in a position where I could work my way up to getting into senior management within the organisation. I knew to do that I needed experience and qualifications, so I set about doing that. I was very single minded about doing that in that I refused to do any study in army time, because when I left, I wasn’t going to have
anybody say, “Well, he used his time while he was in the army to get all these qualifications.” I refused to do it. I used to get up at 4:30 every morning and study before I went to work and I’d study when I got home from work and I’d study on weekends. I never burnt any bridges in the army. When they gave us the three year seniority, there were only two of us in the army who got it. It was all based on your performance. So if I’d burnt bridges and said, “I’m leaving, I’ll study at work and get paid while I’m getting all these degrees.” I would
never have got that seniority. I refused to do that.
That would have been hard on your family life.
It wasn’t that bad. The workload was pretty tough anyway so the hours were long. We spent a fair bit of time in the field because it wasn’t just in that job that I did it, it was basically in the next three postings that I had that I was studying. But I did a lot of that study in the morning. I’d get up at 4:30 in the morning and I’d get
two or three hours done before I went to work. I did that every morning. And I’d do some at night as well, and I’d do some at the weekend, but it wasn’t that disruptive in that by the time the kids were out of bed in the morning, usually they wouldn’t see me anyway because I would have gone to work at about seven, that didn’t change. Plus I got two or three hours done before I went to work. Then I’d do a couple of hours work that night after they’d gone to bed and I’d do a little bit on the weekends as well. So it was probably tougher on me than it was on them.
But it did have an impact on them, there is no doubt about that.
What does that make your new rank?
I was a second lieutenant when I went down to Sydney and I got promoted to lieutenant. This was the problem when you got through Portsea. You graduated to second lieutenant, not a lieutenant, so you do three years as a second lieutenant and then you’re meant to do 18 months as a lieutenant, which makes it basically a four-and-a-half-year period where you’re a lieutenant, whereas a Duntroon
did just about two or three after graduation. So I got promoted to lieutenant in that posting at 1 Task Force. Then I got posted, it was another period of significant disruption for us. They posted me into Victoria Barracks in Sydney as a personnel officer in the rank of captain on promotion, and my wife was working in the city at that time and travelling
by train from the western suburbs every day. So we thought, “This is great. You keep your job in town, we’ll get a flat in town, because we’re both working in virtually the same area, and we’ll have two years living in the middle of Sydney. It’ll be great.” So we planned a trip to England so I could meet her parents, because I hadn’t met them yet. We’d only been married for two years. So I was leaving at the end of that year, she couldn’t get time off work the time that I could, but they were
happy to give her an extended period but she had to be back by a certain time for an event they were planning. So we booked the, I made the arrangements for my leave, she made the arrangements for hers, we booked the flights, she went home about a month before me to spend time with her family so that I could link up with her for five weeks and then we’d come back. We made a booking where we couldn’t really change the time, then the army changed my posting and posted me to Canungra up here in Queensland into a
training development officer position to design the new junior staff course they were about to create. I wasn’t a qualified trained development officer, so I had to go and get trained in that because they had an establishment position at Canungra for a lieutenant that had not been filled, rather than create a captain’s position, “He’s only a lieutenant, we’ll just transfer him in as a lieutenant.” So they changed the posting from going to
Sydney as a captain to going to Canungra as a lieutenant. Meanwhile, we’d already booked the flights to England, we couldn’t change them, and my wife had to leave her job in Sydney and I had to go to Canungra. I went up there to work under a colonel, the two of us were going to design this new 10-week course that all captains were going to attend to teach them how to be a staff officer. I got there, they
sent me off on a month-long training development officer’s course. When I got back, the colonel was the commandant at the Land Warfare Centre. He’d been cross-posted. Something happened to the command, he left, the colonel gets posted across, he’s now the commandant, and I am the only person now designing this staff course. So here’s a course that didn’t exist, but I had to design from scratch to teach all the captains in the army how to be staff officers, and I’m a lieutenant
designing it. That’s what I did for 12 months. Meanwhile, everybody I’d been to Portsea with had been promoted to captain the year before, so I’m now in the dubious honour of being the only person out of my year at Portsea not to be promoted to captain and I’m sitting up at Canungra designing a course to be attended by captains, which was quite a joke.
So as you can imagine I wasn’t all that impressed. Anyway, I got qualified as a trained development officer and I designed the course, then they posted all the lieutenant colonel in charge of it and post staff, all the majors were coming in to run the course. I designed the course, I wrote all the tests of the course, working out the re-tests. I wrote all the directing staff précis,
their lecture notes, the whole lot for this course. It was the first fully objectivised course that had been designed in the army, one that had been designed under the army training system, which is similar to normal business training system as well. But the first course that had been properly designed using one of those systems. That held me in good stead in terms of the experience I gained from that. But I guess
it was just yet another disruption to our lives in that we’d planned this go to England, live in Sydney for two years, my wife was still working, I’m on promotion, so a bit more money. All of a sudden I’m still lieutenant, wife had to leave the job, whole bunch of things like that. At this point I have to say that Lana was not all that impressed with the army. It didn’t get any better after that.
You’d have to be very understanding.
would. I can understand why they did it. If they had a proper personnel management system that cared about the individual, and I’ve always been very critical of our system for that, then that would and should never have happened. But with a bit of prior planning in a system that looked at all the incidents, “Wow, this guy has already made all these plans. I’ll let him know.
There’s got to be someone else out there that’s got to be able to do this job.” But they’ll say, “He’ll be good.” Yeah, I might have been good at it, tell me about six months earlier and give it to me in a way that will say, “You’re the only guy that can do this job.” and make me a captain. There was no reason why they couldn’t have done that. They could have created a (UNCLEAR) captain’s position up there for 12 months. It would have made it easier even if I was going up there as a captain and then at least you’re a captain designing the captains’ course instead of being a lieutenant designing
the captains’ course, which was the standing joke around (UNCLEAR). “Oh, you’re the captain who designed the captains’ course.”
What’s after Canungra?
At the end of Canungra they posted me off to 42 RQR [Royal Queensland Regiment], which is an army reserve unit in Rockhampton, because all the regular officers at that time had to have a period of time in an army reserve unit
before you can get promoted to the rank of major or colonel or something. I was sent off there. The adjutant is the senior personnel officer within the battalion, personal staff officer to the commanding officer, so it’s a fairly significant position in the battalion. I was supposed to go up there in the January the next year after the leave period. My wife was pregnant, baby
due in January. My job was supposed to finish by October, and I was just writing précis and notes and things like that for the directing staff, who could have done it themselves if they had any understanding of what they were doing, but they didn’t. So I had heaps to keep me going, but it wasn’t critical that I did it, because it could have been done by others. So they decided to remove the adjutant of this battalion for some reason. They contacted the commandant
of the centre and said, “We want McIntosh to go up there early. He’s going up in November because they’ve got an exercise on over the Christmas period and we’ve got to have an adjutant there and we’ve moved the other guy.” He said, “OK, I’ll speak to Pat.” He told me and I said, “No, I won’t go.” He said, “What do you mean, you won’t go?” I said, “I won’t go. I’ve got my sister-in-law coming out from England, my wife’s booked in, got a doctor down here, booked into a hospital, she’s having a baby in January.
The family from England are coming over to the Gold Coast.” where we were living, “I’m not saying, ‘You’re not coming to the Gold Coast now, you’re coming to Rockhampton.’ No way. So I’m not going.” This was the guy who was meant to be designing this course that I was given, so he owed me a fair bit, and we got on fairly well together. He said, “No problem.” So he went back and said, “He’s not going.” They said, “You tell him to go.” He said, “No, he’s not going. I’m backing him. He’s not going to go.” So they came back and put the heavies on and said, “You will go.” and I said, “I won’t.” Then basically it was an option,
“If you want me to go, you charge me because I’m not going.” “Are you saying you’re not going at all?” I said, “No, I’ve already accepted the posting. I’ll go when I was due to go and I’m not going before. In fact, January doesn’t suit me either, I think February is a better time.” So I ended up pulling them back a little bit. They came back and put all sort of pressure on me, and my two bosses both knew what I was like and said, “You’re wasting your time.” And they were, and I wasn’t going. So I ended up,
a whole bunch of things then happened, we ended up losing the baby, the baby was a bit premature, complications in the birth, totally avoidable complications but the hospital didn’t have surgeons on hand and the baby survived a couple of days then died. I was under a lot of pressure from the people who owned the house I was renting because they’d just separated
and she wanted to come back and live there so we were getting crying phone calls every day saying, “Can I have my house back?” It just got to a point where I said, “OK, given everything that’s happened we’re probably better off not being around here anymore. Let’s go to Rocky [Rockhampton].” So I contacted them and said, “I’ll go to Rocky.” So I ended up going there in November, which was the timeframe they’d initially asked me to go, and I went anyway. All the angst I had to go through to this point
didn’t really need to happen, but I wasn’t aware of that.
Interviewee: Patrick McIntosh Archive ID 2450 Tape 04
We’ll briefly go over those nine years in the army and move through the ranks.
I got to Rockhampton in November of that year. I then told them I was there and therefore they could promote me to captain and they said, “No, you weren’t going to arrive til February so you won’t get promoted til February.” So they effectively took three months seniority off me for refusing to go, which I didn’t mind because I would have done exactly the same thing to me if I was
sitting in their chair. I had two years in Rockhampton. That was a good learning experience. Finished most of my study in that time. I was then posted to the Infantry Centre where I was writing doctrine for a couple of years, so that gave me good exposure to a part of the army that I hadn’t been involved in before. We have a lot of manuals and training manuals and things like that, and this
organisation was responsible for writing those. That was a two-year job. I was then posted across to 5/7 RAR in Sydney, which was a mechanised battalion. I went into that battalion as the adjutant - that’s the senior captain’s position in the battalion. I was then promoted to major and commanded a mechanised company for 12 months and then I was appointed to operations officer, which is senior major position in the battalion. So I was in the battalion for three years
and had three very significant jobs in the battalion in those three years. While I was the adjutant of the battalion I resigned from the army because at that point I had completed my accounting degree and my personnel management degree and at that point I’d also received three years seniority. So all of a sudden I had a career. That’s why I was appointed as the adjutant, that’s why I hadn’t had that job before. But I’d been offered a very significant position as
an accountant with a private hospital in Rockhampton, on par with the money that I was going to earn in the army, and I decided to take it. Having had to give three month’s notice, in that three-month period I still was about to get promoted to major, I was about to command a company, I was about to take it to Malaysia four months and I really wanted to do that. So in the end I turned down the position that I’d been offered and I refused resignation and
decided to serve on for a couple of more years. I never quite got around to resigning again afterwards. So after that three years in the battalion I was selected to go to army staff college down in Queensland, which is basically a senior major’s position. You can’t get promoted to lieutenant colonel and beyond without attending staff college, so it’s a by selection appointment.
Had a great 12 months down there, learning a lot, especially preparing you for senior officer positions. I was very lucky at the end of that posting to be selected to go to Germany where I was going to be working with the British Army on the Rhine in their Headquarters 1st Armoured Division. I was meant to be working on their exercise writing team to be part of a team designing and writing a divisional-
level exercise. I got over there in the beginning of 1989.
Did you go with your family?
Yeah, it was a company posting. So all the family went over, and I had two kids in primary school at that stage and there was an international school near the barracks that they could attend. We lived in married quarters close to where I worked amongst all the other British officers.
It was a little army enclave that we all lived in. That was a great opportunity for the family.
Were you with other Australians?
There was one other Australian. There were two of us who were posted over there - one was a logistics officer and I was an armoured corps officer. We were both meant to be working on the design of this divisional exercise. He would do all the logistic side of it and I’d be working on the operations side of it.
As it turned out he got roped into help write a logistics exercise they were holding very early in the piece and most of the work had been done and there was just the final stages of that exercise had to be worked on. So he was very lucky he ended up working on that. This exercise was over within a couple of months of us being there. The exercise I was due to work on, there was no commitment from the Brits to write that exercise because it was a
third priority exercise for NATO [North American Treaty Organisation] for that year. In Germany they exercise over the countryside. They just drive straight over people’s farms, straight over their crops. They don’t have training areas like we have over here. It’s quite incredible. And there’s a lot of anger from Germans about NATO armies, the Brits and the Germans as well, doing this. They were paid compensation. The compensation people come
in behind and pay them what they thought was fair for the damage that was done. It was enough so the farmers could get it fixed. So it was very difficult to conduct these exercises. In previous years there was only one or two of the exercises that had gone up - the third one hadn’t really been run for some time. And because the general in charge of the division was changing in August and the exercise was in September, he had no interest in that exercise whatsoever and because he had no interest in it, the people on the headquarters didn’t have
any interest either. So I arrived there and said, “I’m on the exercise planning staff. Where are they?” They said, “We haven’t got one, so basically it’s going to be you.” I said, “Where are the exercise papers? What are the objectives for the exercise?” They said, “We haven’t really thought about that. Just work something out.” That was basically the attitude. “This exercise isn’t going to happen; we’ve got better things to worry about. You’re over here to write it, I suppose you’d better do it. Here’s an officer,
here’s all the papers from previous exercises. Anything you need, just give us a yell.” The general said to me from the outset, “I know you’ve got this exercise to write. I suppose you’d better do something on that. But use this opportunity to get around Europe at every opportunity you can; don’t wait for us to tell you. If you’ve got nothing on, just go.” So I did. I read everything I could into exercising in Europe. All the regulations, all the previous exercises they’d run, and found that
essentially, every exercise in the past had been exactly the same and all they did was change the dates. I worked out a timescale for when things had to be done. I presented that to the chief of staff and said, “I’ve done everything I can do, this is what I need from you and this is when I need it by.” Then I just started touring around Europe. I went off to Italy for a couple of weeks. Came back. Still no action. Went off to Switzerland for a couple of more weeks. Went off to Spain. Eventually
he got a bit upset with me and said, “You’re never here. You don’t do any work.” I said, “Sir, you’ve got the list. I’ll do the work, but you’ve got to give me this information.” Eventually he said, “We’re not going to give it unless you work it out for yourself and just pass it by me.” So I did. I designed the objectives and everything for the exercise. I then looked at it and thought, “You’re having a lot of trouble running exercises over here because you’re doing the exercise in the same way you’ve always done them. Bring all the
troops into the field, massive damage, massive protest, massive problem, incredible cost. So why don’t you look at a new concept of running a commanders’ field exercise where you put the commanders in the field and have the real logistics, have real engineers crossing rivers and things like that, but only bring the command element into the field and you can then shoot.” what
we called shoot anyway, practical exercise without troops, “The battle itself so you don’t have to fight it.” So it was a totally new concept that hadn’t been tried before. They said, “That’s got a lot of promise. We’re quite interested in that, but we’ve still got to have a field exercise.” This was just a very typical conservative British officer. I said, “Why have we got to have a field exercise? I’m talking about a new concept.” He said, “Perhaps we
try this new concept, but we’ve got to have a field exercise.” So I ended up having to write an exercise for a field exercise. Then we had to move to another part of Germany because you couldn’t exercise in the same place twice, and then design this new concept for an exercise. To do that I had to write a book on how to run an exercise like that. I had to write an umpire’s handbook on how to run that because it’s never been done before. I had to write two lots of exercise instructions for the division, we’re talking about
20 or 30,000 people, then we had to move most the people home after the first phase because they weren’t to take part in the second phase, and then move all the people who were required for the second phase from where they were to a new location. So I ended up making this whole operation about twice, three times more complex than it would have been if we’d just run a normal exercise. But because of this new concept, and as word got out about it, we had visits from different other armies coming in saying, “What’s this
command field exercise concept? We’ve heard about it.” So we were giving briefings on it. It got to a point where there was so much interest in it that the head of NATO cancelled the two exercises that had priority over ours and our exercise was then the only exercise to be run. This happened basically late July, early August, and the exercise was only a few weeks off happening. At this point headquarters had no interest in it whatsoever. I’d signed off
on all the exercise papers myself because the chief of staff had no interest in it. Then all of a sudden the new general comes in, and he was the one who told us that the exercise was on, we didn’t know at that point, and the briefing program for him which didn’t even involve the exercise. He said, “I’m not interested in any of that. I want a briefing tomorrow on White Rhino, because it’s on and it’s the only one. The head of NATO is coming, the Minister for Defence in the UK [United Kingdom] is coming, and the Minister for Defence in Germany is coming to visit
the exercise. So forget about everything else, it’s White Rhino.” This is a total change from no one cared, I wrote the instructions, I signed off on the instructions and they didn’t even read them. So the chief of staff had read them that night. From that night on we were best of friends all of a sudden. Thankfully it was well written, it was workable and it was going to be a successful exercise, but I could have just as easily
have not done that. The exercise occurred and it was a success, it hadn’t been done before. I ended up running exercise headquarters because I was the only one who really knew the nuts and bolts of the exercise, so I was running exercise headquarters and doing the coordination role as well. The general insisted on having me as his personal staff officer because he was new to it, didn’t understand the background or anything else. Anytime he was briefing anyone senior he wanted
me to be there to be able to field any questions that people might ask that he didn’t have answers to, so there was a bit of conflict there between the chief of staff and him because I’m running the exercise myself and he wanted me to be present whenever there was a briefing. So we had to compromise there but it went well. At the end of that the chief of staff basically said, “Thank you. When are you due back in Australia?” I said, “Not til February next year.” He said, “Good, take the rest of the time off. You’ve done more than enough.” So I ended up spending
several weeks off, the first months of the year travelling around Europe, and then had about four or five months off at the end to do the same again. So very busy six months in the middle leading up to the exercise. In fact, it was so busy I sent my family back to England to stay with their family because I was working around the clock. When the exercise finished they came back and we had a great time touring Europe.
Were you proud of your efforts?
I was, yeah. It was a concept that hadn’t been tried before and we’d had a similar sort of exercise when I was in 1 Task Force under General Sanderson. Wasn’t exactly the same, but it was a similar kind of concept and I liked the concept. I thought it made a lot of sense. We had all the troops in the field at that one. I thought, “There’s a variation to this concept that would make sense.” When I got over there and saw the difficulties they were having, I thought, “They’ve got to look more laterally here and
work out a better way of conducting the exercise.” It was quite smart in the way it was done in that everything was real. When they were travelling along doing an advance across a river, they physically had to get the engineer and equipment to the point where they were going to cross the river before anyone could cross the river. If they had left the engineering equipment back in the assembly area and forgotten to bring it forward,
which happened a lot, then they weren’t moving anywhere until that engineering equipment got to where it had to be. Then there was a designated time allowed for how long it would take to lay over the bridge so they wouldn’t disrupt the traffic on the roads by closing, which is what they used to do - close the whole road down while they put a bridging operation on. There was no need to do that, but you still brought the bridging equipment up to the point and you had enclaves there and they said, “It’d take two hours to lay this bridge.” So the bridging equipment has now arrived, checked it was
all there, and, “OK, so we’re here, you can cross this bridge in two hours’ time.” So everything was for real in terms of time and space. I’ve had massive problems within the exercise, which is exactly what we’re trying to get around. Whereas if you did that as a command post exercise you just do it with a map. If you were saying, “We’ve got to cross this river here, where’s all that equipment? Right, it’s now here.” So that’s what happened. So you’re not getting good training out of those command post exercises. So doing it in the field,
this was a way of getting 90 percent of the training at a fraction of the cost and without any of the angst that was caused by the normal field exercises. It worked very well. They did it as a two-sided exercise in the end, whereas totally uncontrolled enemies on both sides. I thought that was a little bit ambitious. I was quite happy, the chief of staff said, “I’d like it done that way.” “Yeah, I’ll fix that up, but there’s a lot of
risk associated.” He said, “No, we’ll see how we go.” I would have thought for the first one I might not have been quite that ambitious, but he told me to do that one and I did it and it worked, to their credit. So once you convince them of the need to change something and you give them another alternative, they’ve got the guts to go and give it a go and it went well.
You were working just with the British?
Yeah. I had to do a lot of work
with the Germans because I was negotiating, not just me, there was a staff officer who - I didn’t speak the language - that would go off and brief the Land Headquarters, like, the local government headquarters, of what we’re doing within their region, what times and anything else they needed to know. So it was a lot of coordination being done there, so I ended up going to all. Then there’d be public briefings in each of the various areas that we were going to
go to so that people could come along and hear what we were going to do, where we were going to go, so they had some prior warning of any disruption to their roads or to their farms. So I had quite a bit of involvement in that. But for the most part you were just working with the brief.
It’s basically just getting it organised, making sure the local population isn’t disturbed and making some adjustments?
Yeah, well, the local population was always going to be disturbed, but the level of disturbance for the
locals was massive. You’re talking about an armoured division here, tanks and armoured vehicles. If they decided they were going to attack that hill over there and that hill happened to be in crop, didn’t matter. They just went and drove right through the crop. They went and attacked the hill, then the damage control people would come in behind and see the farmers and say, “This is what we reckon it’s worth, here’s a cheque.” So these poor farmers are growing their crops and
all of a sudden there’s armoured vehicles driving through them and there’s not a damn thing they can do about it. You would never get away with it over here. It would never happen over here, but over there it would. The German government paid the damage bill, not the Brits, so the Brits didn’t care what damage was being done. So this was a hangover from you lost the war. It was at the end of its life. It had been coming to the end of its life for some time, but they were still doing the same kind of exercises. Their way of getting around it and reducing the cost was to run
fewer exercises instead of taking a more lateral look and approach and look at another way of doing it where you still have the elements in the field but you’re not causing anywhere near as much disruption. That’s what this command post exercise did. It was something in between what they call an FTX [Field Training Exercise], a Field Training Exercise where you’ve got everyone in the field, and a command post exercise where you’ve got no one in the field and you’re just doing everything from maps and simulation and computers. This was a
command field exercise where you got the command element but they’re operating real time on the ground, in the field, with only essential elements like engineers and guns and stuff like that. They didn’t need to travel across fields because if you’ve only got, and you only needed the headquarters of the engineering unit, for instance, to be at this point. So the time it would take that vehicle to travel around
to get to that point is about how long it would have taken the convoy of vehicles to travel by the most expedient route. So it all worked out in time and space, it was a good concept that suited perfectly the conditions in NATO at the time, and once they got word of that’s what we were intending to do our exercise got up. Thankfully I did put as much effort into the writing of it as I did because it would have been embarrassing, not for me,
it would have been very embarrassing for the Brits and the chief of staff had they decided to run this exercise and then find that the planning had not been done as thoroughly as it needed to be done to make it work.
1989 in Germany, this is around the period that…?
The wall came down?
Tell us about that.
We’d go and visit the wall from time to time and just go to
these villages where there’s a fence right through the village because it was all done on a line on the map. You see the East German guards up in their little boxes with their weapons. There were places that had been built on the other side of this, on the West German side of the fence, and people would stand up there and try and have a glimpse of their relatives on the other side of that. They hadn’t seen them since the war. Just shocking. All of a sudden this is starting to break down. I
nearly got into West Berlin while I was there, but unfortunately I gave up an opportunity that I had because some young officers from Australia had come over and wanted to catch up with me for the weekend. They said, “You can get to Germany any time you like.” I said, “It’s not that easy.” Anyway, I ended up cancelling the weekend that had been arranged, and then the wall came down soon after that and then they wouldn’t let us in. So I couldn’t get in. It was quite interesting. In Germany when you’re driving along the
autobahn in Germany, if you do the wrong thing, travel on the wrong side of the road, travel in the fast lane too slow, they’ll just come right up your backside, flashing lights, blowing horns, very aggressive. All of a sudden, when the wall came down, you had these old, clapped out vehicles coming in out of East Germany and no idea of what the autobahn was about. They had no idea what side you were meant to drive on. These clapped old things would be in the fast lane travelling at about no kilometres an hour and everyone would come right up and go
around them. It was just amazing. A total contrast to what they would do to anybody else. You’d be driving a long the roads and you would see these modern German Audis and BMWs and all this sort of thing parked on the side of the road, and then these East German things. There’d be family reunions where they linked up and it was just great to see it happening. But it was also amazing to get a feel for
the fact that they didn’t have any appreciation of what it was going to do to their economy. When you try and talk to them about what was going to happen to their economy as a result of combining the two Germanys, and the fact that it was going to be such a massive drain on the West German economy for so long to try and build up the East German economy that at the time they said, “No, we don’t mind that.” But you could tell that they had no concept on just how long it was going to take and how much money it was going to take. It took them
a few years before they then understood the true cost of the unification.
What about the aspect of being a part of the military and almost a part of NATO in this time and seeing Eastern Europe changing in the end of the Cold War?
I thought that was quite interesting and I felt there was a need for a change in NATO’s approach to the Soviet Union at that time. We’d go out and do exercises,
tutorial exercises, where we were planning what we’d do here and there if they were going to attack us. The thing that amazed me was the perspective was that the Soviet Union were the bad guys and they were going to attack. There was no concept that they’re not necessarily going to attack. Why the hell would they want to? What’s their chance of victory and what reason will they have to attack? They will, that’s what. They’re there. You say, “No, think of it from their perspective. They’re looking at you sitting,
they’re sitting on that border and you’re seeing them as a threat. They’re seeing you sitting here so they see you as a threat, so they’re defending against that threat and you’re defending against them as a threat. Both of you just need to step down here. The world is changing. It’s changing over there. I think you really need to start showing this side that you’re also changing with it.” It took a long time for that to happen. I think it took a lot longer than it needed to. I think they could have pulled back that whole NATO guard a lot
earlier than they did just as a show of good faith, that, “We don’t see you as necessarily being a threat.” I guess it’s different when you’re not in Europe and you’re not living with that. You’re probably able to be a bit more objective coming from somewhere like Australia where you’re looking at hearing their view of the bad guy Soviet Union and you’re thinking, “I can see it from their perspective. You’re the one sitting here. You’ve got your
tactical nuclear weapons as well. I can see them looking at you and thinking exactly the same thing.” But they couldn’t. They saw themselves as the good guy and them as a bad guy. I’m sure the Soviet Union saw themselves as the good guy and them as the bad guy. It was quite an interesting experience.
Also it was leading into a change of emphasis for the military across the world. Were you thinking about this and how your
future might change?
I’d done a hell of a lot of work on this prior to this time. I was highly critical at our staff college where were doing corps level tactical operations. A corps has got several, three to four divisions, operating against other corps and that. We’ve never had that since the Second World War. We’ll never have that happen
again. It certainly won’t happen for a very long period of time. This is all conventional style of operation, the sort of thing that they were playing out over in Europe, and we’re training for that sort of thing over here in a small army that was never designed for it. Didn’t have the people, didn’t have the equipment, didn’t have anything. We’re wasting our time down there training in this operational environment that was just totally out of left field. Couldn’t understand it and was highly critical of it at the time.
Yet there was an operational level of training that we weren’t even doing - should have been done at staff college. An operational level of training that was more designed for complex operations, UN [United Nations] style operations, low-level operations. The sort of operations that are very credible for us now and in the future but require a unique type of training and approach that you need to be trained in. We’re still doing corps-level operations
training with strike armies and regiments and corps worth of armoured vehicles. Here we are with one regiment of tanks and we’re playing with several divisions of this and that. I’d just come from this, over to Germany, and they’re playing this out in Germany. At least over there they’d got corps and they’d got armoured divisions and they’ve got all these things that we’d been pretending to have over here. Even over there it was nonsense. This was never going to
adapt. I could see no situation in which the Soviet Union would invade into Western Europe, a military invasion into Western Europe, unless they were provoked. There was certainly no condition under which NATO would invade into the Soviet Union, so something that was reasonably well managed, there was a chance that this was never going to happen, but it was a case of one side didn’t want to give up their forces while the other one still had them, so it was a standoff situation,
and it eventually did happen with the breaking down of the wall, the pulling back of the Soviet forces away from the satellite states, and eventually NATO started to scale down some of their forces. I don’t think they’d scaled them down really enough and as quickly as they probably could.
You returned to Australia? We’ll go briefly so we’ll get to Rwanda.
I returned, it was about February of 1990, and I was posted to the Infantry Centre into the Directorate of Infantry. At that point they’d just changed the organisation. The directorate used to be in Canberra and they’d moved it to Singleton. [General] Peter Cosgrove was the director and then he had the School of Infantry under him and the Directorate of Infantry. I was a major staff officer
in the headquarters in the first year, responsible for combat development. So I was responsible for all the force development for the infantry corps, for the special forces and regional surveillance units, which is probably 80 percent of the army. In the second year I was promoted to lieutenant colonel and I took over that unit. I was responsible for all the material requirements for infantry, all the doctrine, the overseas exchanges that we
had with America, Canada and the UK and New Zealand. So I was the head of delegation for what they called the quadripartite working group on infantry, which involved a little bit of travel in the world. I was responsible for all the combat development. So that was a really busy three years, because at that time they changed the whole approach to how we were going to do it. There was money to be spent, but all of a sudden the
bureaucrats in Canberra were not going to let it be spent unless there was an objective reasoning as a basis for justifying that expenditure. So we had a very successful three years. I saw a need to change the whole structure of infantry corps. You had no mobility, no proper firepower, very poor communications, there were a lot of things that needed to be fixed up. This was an opportunity for me to do it. So under this
new structure that was operating out of Canberra, they called a meeting. They got all the heads of corps in and said, “We want you to develop a capability analysis for your particular capability.” mine was close combat light, “and come and have a meeting and identify the capability deficiencies.” So within a couple of months I felt that it was nonsense. I felt it was totally un-objective
because all you were going to get was all these corps saying, “I’m armoured corps, what do I need? I need more tanks.” So my reasoning was that if you were going to justify the expenditure you had to have a line of logic from something that was given, all the way through to a capability deficiency. If you could do that the money was there and you’d be given the money to spend. So I identified there was a major paper that had been written that
identified the task of the Defence Force. There was another defence paper that had been written and endorsed which assigned tasks to the land component. There was a void…there was nothing after that. So I wrote a concept of operations, or close combat light, and I took from the task that was assigned to land force, all the tasks that would be performed by close combat light, and broke them down through an analytical process to identify all the
tasks, how they would be performed, the capabilities that they need to perform them. So from that process I identified the capabilities that were required by close combat light, I think, identified the capabilities that we had and I identified the deficiencies. I went to this meeting. Everyone else got up and gave their brief and said, “Armoured tank, I need more tanks.” “I’m a truckie, I need more trucks.” “I’m an artillery officer, we need more artillery.” Brigadier Moore was sitting down the back pulling his hair out and
it was going nowhere. But that’s exactly where you would have expected it to go. So I got up and said, “I didn’t do what you asked me to do. I don’t like the logic. This is what I’ve done. Here’s the paper. I want it endorsed. Once it’s endorsed we’ve got a logical train from here to here and I’ll identify the capability deficiencies and I…and then develop a capability paper for you for each of those deficiencies.” He said, “I like it.” It was great. He then said,
“Everyone else will do exactly the same thing.” but of course they didn’t do it for whatever reason. So for the next three years we basically got the bulk of the money. We were able to reequip, reorganise, introduce capabilities that would have ordinarily taken decades. We were able to get them in fairly quickly simply by taking a very objective approach and applying logic, which I’ve always done. I refuse to waste my time on something. I will
not do it if I can see something is illogical. Most the time I refuse to do it. I usually don’t go and ask, “Can I do it this way?” because usually they’re going to say, “No, do as you’re bloody told.” So I just go and do it that way and then present a solution that will have to be compelling enough for them to accept it and maybe even embrace it themselves. That worked well. A very busy three years and very successful for the corps.
So a lot of changes to the infantry.
Well, it needed to be because there hadn’t been any for a long time. We were still training for conventional operations that hadn’t been feasible for 20 years. We were equipped for, I don’t know what, but we certainly were equipped for the kind of operations that were credible. We didn’t have the mobility, we didn’t have the communication. When you’ve only got communication for platoon level it means you can only operate at platoon level. When you’ve got tasks that can be done at section strength, why send 30 people out to do what you can do with four? Especially when you can’t communicate.
You solve it with communications. You make sure they’ve got the weapon systems you need to protect themselves and the mobility they need to link up with them if they get into trouble. They can’t do that if they can’t communicate. So there was a whole bunch of flaws that the whole model of our army, but particularly infantry, and with the way it was trained, the equipment it had, the doctrine for training. So basically it was a case of getting into an organisation at a time
when it significantly needed massive change. I was very fortunate under Peter Cosgrove to be able to make that change. He certainly didn’t stand in my way at all. He was very busy as the Director of Infantry, and I ran the directorate, and I’d brief him on what I was doing and he supported me in that and we achieved an enormous amount in that three-year period.
Was there a change to get ready for things like UN operations?
Yes, there was. That was the nature of the concept. It was about defining the kinds of operations. At that time there was a move in Canberra within defence circles and it wasn’t embraced by the broader army that conventional operations weren’t credible and there was a whole range of more credible things
we had to prepare for. It wasn’t embraced by the wider army, I did embrace it because I’d been seeing it for years. All of a sudden I was in a position where I could do that. So as a doctrine we wrote the design of the infantry battalion, the equipment that we introduced, the whole lot was all designed around the performance of more credible operations which were more lower-level operations. It’s really a case of having a view of where you fit in to the overall
defence business of the world. There’s no way in the world Australia is getting involved in a high-scale conventional operation, and we should not even think that we can. They’re niche capabilities around the world. America is very good at big operations, very bad at small ones. They’re not good at lower-level operations simply because the skills that you need at the junior leadership
ranks for low-level operations is quite intense. You have got to have very well-trained junior leaders who are capable of thinking around a wide range of issues and understanding. You can do that in a small army if you have the right emphasis. You can’t do it in a massive army. So the Soviet Union would never be good at it and the US [United States] will never be good at it so let them do
the big stuff. We’ve got our niche, let’s do the stuff that is more credible. Work within our region, work with regional partners and be prepared to conduct the lower-level conflict-type operations that are very credible and make sure that we’re equipped for them, trained for them so that we can perform them well with the minimum risk of loss of life.
How were these changes working in relation to the government at the time?
The government was very supportive of these changes. They could see the need for this. However, there was a big disconnect at the top end. We were still up there buying strike aircraft and battle ships and things like that. To be honest, you’re not a navy unless you’ve got a destroyer, and you’re not an air force unless you’ve got this strike capability. I’m not saying that you don’t have any of that, but there were
cheaper ways of achieving what they were trying to achieve, and I could see that we were buying capabilities that it was never, ever feasible that we’d ever use. That’s not necessarily a criticism. You can look at the deterrent effect of having those systems. Might have been one of the reasons why they’ve never been used. I think there was a view of a need to change and there were a few defence think tanks around the place
that certainly had identified the need for us to have a structure and an emphasis on more credible operations. I fully supported that at the time.
With these changes, was in natural that Australia would start to be involved in more UN operations than regional?
I don’t think it was natural as a result of the changes. We would have been involved in them anyway, and a lot of the units that were involved never made a change. So a lot of them
did go on to perform these operations without any training in them whatsoever. While I’m talking about, this is early ‘90s where we were, I can change the structure of an infantry battalion, I can rewrite the doctrine, but I can’t make the infantry battalion do that training. When I got to command, at the end of that posting I commanded the 2/4th battalion, the online battalion, for two years. It was online for the two years that I was there. When I got there and looked at what they were training for, some of the tasks they were training for were
credible type tasks, but there were a lot of other things they were training for that were totally incredible, and an enormous amount of time and effort was put into training that. So I just did a training analysis for the battalion and changed the whole approach for how they were training. So I can make the structural changes at the top end, I can’t make people change (UNCLEAR) because they’ve been brought being trained to do this. All of a sudden they get to a position where they’re in charge and that’s what they train
for. There’s a need for a more objective approach. Forget about what you’ve done in your past, keep abreast of where the world’s at, at the moment and be prepared to be quite objective about identifying the things that you have to train for. I go back to the point I made when I was a platoon commander and the company commander came and bawled me out because I wasn’t training the troops. I said, “I’m quite happy to train the troops. What are we meant to be training in?” “Just go and train the troops.”
“OK.” Exactly the same things was still happening. Unfortunately you need a lot of time from when you make the high-level changes before it does filter down through a process of training and acceptance for all of a sudden the people on the ground are training for the tasks that are now more credible. I think that’s happening now. But here we are, 10 years later. I don’t
believe it should take 10 years to make that kind of a fundamental change.
Interviewee: Patrick McIntosh Archive ID 2450 Tape 05
We’ll start with the build up to Rwanda.
I was commanding the 2/4th Battalion in Townsville, which was the online operational deployment force battalion. I’d been commanding that since the beginning of 1993. Halfway through ‘94
we got word that we might be looking at deploying a force to Rwanda and I was identified as the commanding officer of that force if it was to deploy, so I was sent off on a reconnaissance of Rwanda. There was myself and an intelligence corps officer who was looking at the security situation and a couple of others looking at the UN aspect, medical aspects there. So we flew across to
Kenya and then we flew to Uganda into Entebbe Airport. Flew down to the border in a UN helicopter and then we came in by Land Rover from the north into Kigali just as Kigali was basically falling during the fight and just consulted with the UN headquarters, that was General Dallaire [commander UN Forces in Rwanda], to work out what the situation was on the ground, what kind of support they needed. If we put a medical force in, where would we operate
from? So we went and had a look at the options around town as to where we’d put the hospital and decided that we would use the central hospital of Kigali, which was nothing but a shell at that point. That’s what we decided to use if we were to come back. We didn’t have a lot of freedom of movement at that time because Kigali had only just fallen so it wasn’t a safe
place to be just driving anywhere you liked. We managed to get out of Kigali in a French C130 that had been sent in to evacuate a French journalist who had been shot, a female journalist who had been shot a couple of times, so they sent in an aircraft to evacuate her and we ended up jumping on that aircraft and getting out that way, which was convenient. Then we went to New York to have discussions with the UN Headquarters Department of Peacekeeping Operations
just to brief them on what we’d found over there and looking at what they wanted us to provide and trying to identify the kind of force that would be needed and what capabilities would be required. Then we went back to Australia from there. There was no commitment at that time for us to send that force, but there was a reasonable degree of
likelihood that we would be sending a medical support force. I was quite confident at that point that the government had made this decision that we would send it, but they were reserving a decision on when they would send it. So the biggest problem we had was that when they made that decision that that’s what we were going to send that they told us then to keep it quiet. “We don’t want
you to publicise it. Don’t let the word get out.” That one thing really caused us an enormous amount of grief during the preparation period.
What had you seen on the streets of Kigali on your first trip?
At the point that we got in there, the bodies that you saw on the news around Kigali had pretty much been cleaned away. You had to move away from the main streets. We weren’t
operating. We drove in on the main road and went over to a couple of hospitals that were pretty much on main roads anyway so we didn’t really get a chance to get outside of the main roads. You didn’t walk, even the hospitals that we went to visit, you didn’t go walking around them because there was mines and booby traps all over the place so you had to be very careful about how far you went. We didn’t get to see lots of dead bodies or anything like that during that
reconnaissance period. What we did see were some shocking conditions in the hospitals with maimed people that were still alive and nothing at all could be done for them. Medecins Sans Frontieres were still there and just doing what they could for the people that were lining up for their help. Just really horrific conditions in the makeshift hospitals where there really wasn’t
any prospect for any of those people to survive because there was no real operating capability except maybe amputate. And there was certainly no post-operative care for anyone that was going to need that. You could certainly tell straight away that there was a real need to get the NGO [Non Government Organisation] community back into Rwanda, they’d mostly left, and to have some kind of first world medical facility available to
the UN, but also available for Rwandans as well.
What was the reaction to the group of you travelling around?
Because we weren’t there for very long we went to the three hospitals and the UN Headquarters. That was essentially all we went to. You were driving around in UN vehicles. The RPA [Rwandan Patriotic Army], the Rwandan Patriotic Army, they had no time for the UN
whatsoever. I can very much understand that, because when the genocide occurred the UN left. So you’ve got these soldiers everywhere with AK47s [machine-gun] and are quite bitter towards the UN. So you had to be very careful about what you did or you’d end up in some sort of trouble. The hospital staff were too busy to sit down and have much of a discussion with you other than to say, “Yes, we need help.” They were just
overwhelmed with the amount of work that was left to them. The UN Headquarters, you could see how traumatised they were simply because they had wanted to do something to help prevent the genocide, but they were directed not to. They’d been mortared and rocketed, you see the UN vehicles that had been blown up in their compound from mortars, holes in their building where they’d been rocketed. So they’d been attacked and the RPA hated
them because they didn’t do anything to help. Well, they did. The people that stayed did as much as they could to help, but the rest of the force pulled out. The government forces that were now in retreat hated them because they believed that the UN had caused the defeat simply because General Dallaire had orchestrated to allow to RPA to bring a battalion into the centre of Kigali and have it
basically in a defensive position near the parliament house to protect the negotiators as they were coming in to negotiate the terms of the Arusha Accord. It was only because that battalion was in Kigali that the RPA were able to fight from inside Kigali as well as from the north towards Kigali at the same time and were able to capture Kigali and basically defeat the government forces. If it hadn’t been for that force that was in Kigali, they could never have won, they were just too grossly
outnumbered. So the government forces and the previous government hated the UN and blamed them for their defeat, and the RPA hated them for having a UN Force there that then went away as soon as the genocide started. So you can understand the bitterness that existed. The local population, those that were left, were just totally traumatised from the experience they’d just been through.
What were you thinking personally?
I guess it’s 10 years ago, but I guess at the time I was expecting to see dead bodies everywhere. So I guess I was pleasantly surprised that at least we’re not going to be walking over the top of dead bodies everywhere we go. As it turned out that wasn’t the case. There were dead bodies everywhere, it’s just that the main streets had been cleared of dead bodies, not everywhere else had. I could just see the destruction that had occurred. It wasn’t a war like you might imagine where there’s been
heavy weapons used. There weren’t buildings that had been totally destroyed. I couldn’t understand why there were some buildings that had been erased to the ground and buildings beside them didn’t appear to have been touched. I was trying to work out what kind of a weapon had caused that. It couldn’t have been mortars or artillery or something like that because it would have damaged all of it. It wasn’t until some time later that we found out that it was the RPA had basically blown up those buildings because they were owned by the French, and the French had
been basically assisting the previous government, so anything that was French they destroyed. So a lot of the damage that was done was done after the RPA won the fight, just going around blowing up French-owned buildings and things like that. The hospital that we were going into, the other hospital that had been built by the Chinese was a new hospital. It was pretty much untouched from the war, but it was a private hospital.
The main government hospital that we decided to work out of, the bottom floor of it was pretty much intact. There was just trash in terms of all the bedding and everything else had been thrashed and all that had to be brought in. Every window in the place had been blown out, the tiled floor had been blown to pieces, no sewerage or anything like that. All the people in that hospital had been killed. So it was absolutely, the hygiene and everything else, the
toilets were full of…it was shocking, the conditions. But we didn’t see any over signs of dead bodies around the place. At that point we weren’t going into the buildings, we weren’t going into them all. Bodies were still in the fridges and the power had been off for three months. So there were some horrible things that still had to be dealt with what the main group arrived that we didn’t get to see while we were over there.
So back in Australian, the government
doesn’t want anything said?
Well, it was pretty evident that they’d made a commitment that they were going to send this force, but they weren’t about to announce it. We had a meeting and Land Headquarters when we first got back from the UN in Sydney and it was a meeting that was meant to be, “We’re here to help you, what kind of support are you going to need for this operation?” I’d done a fair bit of work on working out what we needed in terms of numbers and
things like that. It became evident to me at this meeting that there was nothing more than a vested interest conference. Everyone was there saying, “Are you going to need to have some our people here? Are you going to need to have some of ours? Some of ours?” I just said, “You’re not here to help us at all. You’re only here to get yourself a guernsey [place] on this operation. Unless you’re going to have the right attitude to help us then you can just bugger off.” I was told to shut up, not the right attitude. But they weren’t there to help, they were there to try and get as many of their people onboard the
operation as they possibly could. We went back to Townsville. I had worked out who I wanted to take from my battalion with me, my operations officer, administrative officer and a bunch of other people. I had to argue and fight to get them on the list of people. So we had identified who was going, the numbers that were going to go and who they were, was already at this point being identified.
But we were told that we couldn’t tell them. The government had said, “Keep it quiet.” As a result of the decision to keep it quiet, there was virtually no planning done for the administrative preparation for the deployment of this force. The people that were going had not been told that they were going, and they weren’t told until the announcement was made on the 25th of July 1994 that we were deploying this force.
Out of the 310 people that deployed, there would have been probably 140 or 150 of those who were from my battalion who were operationally ready. We were the operational online battalion. I told my people, as soon as I knew, who was going. Then I said, “I’ve been told not to tell you, but I feel that’s nonsense. I can trust you. Tell your partners, tell your wives,
but do not go and tell anybody else because it’s meant to be kept quiet.” So the only ones who knew that they were going were the elements of the hierarchy of the organisation that had been identified and they had to be told. But all the other soldiers, sailors and airmen that had been identified to go were not told. My organisation was the only one that had people that were on a degree of readiness where they were ready to go anywhere. We could have tasked them to go anywhere, and in 24 hours they were ready to go.
And they knew for weeks before, a couple of months before, that they were going. Those that were on no degree of readiness whatsoever, who weren’t ready to go anywhere, weren’t told. But I didn’t know them and wasn’t able to tell them. But also they didn’t do any preparation in terms of working because we weren’t taking a formed unit, we were basically going to make up this medical force from right across the Defence Force, there were 63 units where the people came from, and all the
equipment was also going to come from all across the Defence Force. So we had to work out an equipment table and my quartermaster and admin officer did that with the medical people that were also involved in that side of it. Working with Land Headquarters, they worked out an equipment table that we would need to go over there. But Land Headquarters didn’t do anything about identifying, they identified in the background where they could get these bits of equipment from. Them went through their database to work out where all this stuff was around
the Defence Force and saying, “We can pull one of these out of here and one out of here.” but they didn’t warn out anybody to earmark that equipment and prepare it for the operation. I was saying to them, “This is ridiculous. You’re not doing anything. You’ve not warned anybody out. I’ve got an online battalion up here and I’m on an exercise and at some stage during that exercise you’re going to pull me off to go and take this force to Rwanda. No preparation has been done, we haven’t got equipment, no one’s identified where the equipment’s coming from.
There’s no plan to get it to where we’re going to deploy from.” They said, “No, we’ve been told we can’t say anything, therefore we can’t do any plans.” It was ridiculous. “The government is going to, when they make an announcement, because of the hive that’s going on over there, the people and the government are going to expect us to deploy quickly because we’ve known about this for months. It’s not as though they’ve just found out. They will expect us to deploy almost immediately. You are taking this ‘don’t tell them’ concept too far.” “No, we’re not allowed to, and we’re not going to.”
So when the announcement was finally made, thankfully my staff, who had already been identified, and I was working with them developing equipment tables and everything else, we at least had an equipment table ready to go. Then Land Headquarters goes out to the units and says, “You’ve got to provide an ambulance, you’ve got to provide a truck, you’ve got to provide this, that.” All the units did. They just went down to their transport yard and picked out the worst truck, because they were never going to get it back, worst ambulance, the worst truck, the worst bit of equipment
and just sent it on. There was no tracking mechanism in place to track where all this equipment was in terms of time and space. So they were tasked to provide it, this equipment came up to Townsville at snail’s pace, they couldn’t tell us where it was, couldn’t tell us what conditions it was in. If they’d been told earlier they could have said, “We are identifying a vehicle for an operation, I’m not going to give you any details of the operation, you are to make sure that it is
fully maintained, new tyres, new everything, all the requirements, so that it’ll last at least 12 months without any work. It’s to be available by this date.” OK, have it sit there. If we never have to use it, so what? But they didn’t do that. So 25th they announced we were going, 31st everybody is in Townsville, and the advance party were there two days later.
There were 73 out of the 300 on the advance party, so 25th they’re told they’re going to Rwanda, two days later they’re in Townsville, two days later they’re in Rwanda, and they hadn’t been told they were going anywhere. The rest of the force were there on the ground by the 31st and then we deployed the rest of that force, the last plane left on the 20th of August. So we’re talking about 20 days of the last element to go. The rest of it went over that 20-day period.
This is people coming in from units on no readiness, no concept that they were going anywhere. Just pulled of ships, pulled off bases and just ripped straight up to Townsville to go to Rwanda. Never got back to see their families before they left. Just terrible. Then the 3rd Brigade, the operation deployment force, was warned out at the same time to go on a test exercise. So we’re trying to get
them to use their workshops and everything else to do the work on all this shocking equipment that was coming in. People just dumped the worst of their kit. They said, “We can’t help you. We’ve been ordered on a deployment. We’ve got to go.” So there was a logistics unit up in Townsville that was part of the ADF [Australian Defence Force] and was a supply battalion and they were brilliant. They stepped in and really did a lot to help us. They organised civilian contractors around town to do the servicing and work
on the vehicles for us because we couldn’t get any help from the Defence Force. They were great. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have deployed. We had no idea of when we were deploying, we had no idea of when the aircraft were arriving. I would get a phone call from the media officers saying, “Sir, can you do an interview with such and such tomorrow morning at the airport?” I’d say, “I can do an interview, but why would I go out to the airport and do it? I’m busy.” They said, “You’ve got a Galaxy
coming in tonight and it’s leaving tomorrow morning.” I said, “No, I haven’t.” they said, “Yes, you have.” I’d ring the movements people and they’d say, “No there isn’t.” A few hours later they’d ring me back and say, “Sorry, they’re right, there’s a Galaxy inbound, we’re going to load it tonight and it’s going tomorrow morning.” So we went from this, we’d identified the equipment we needed; we identified the sequence to do it in priority to get the right stuff here. We had all that worked out and we had no concept of where any of this kit was coming from, where it was
at any time, aircraft coming in without notice, and in the end we were working all day just trying to train people to getting ready to go, and all night in the warehouse going through this kit to see if it works, see what we’re rejecting and what we’re going to accept and organising all that sort of stuff, and packing it into containers and whatever else. Then as the plane would arrive we’d just throw whatever on that plane that was available.
So the absolute worst case situation you could imagine for deployment on an operation, and probably deploying on the worst operation that anyone in the Australian Defence Force had been on ever, since Vietnam probably. So it was a very, very difficult period. I’d organised to house the force because they were going to use Townsville as a deployment base. I’d organised
to use the 2/4th Battalion because I was commanding it, to use the facilities there and I’d moved people out of the transit lines, I’d sorted out buildings that we could use to accommodate people as they came up to use it as a headquarters to do everything. And I was ordered by Land Headquarters to leave the battalion. As soon as they announced that I was commanding the force they ordered me out of the battalion. I rang the brigade commander up and said, “You’ve got to be kidding. We are using the battalion facilities to
house the force. There is no other facility around the brigade, unless you’ve got one that I don’t know about, that I can use for this. Have you got anything else I can use?” He said, “No, I haven’t.” I said, “I can’t leave.” He said, “You’ve been ordered. I’ve got it in writing. You are out of that headquarters and you are not to go back in there again.” I said, “Get the new commander to come in so he can take over the battalion, because at the moment I’m running a bloody 700-man battalion that are still on exercise and trying to raise this force.” He said, “No, they won’t let him come in until after you’ve left
town.” I said, “What?” He said, “I don’t know, they won’t. You have got to move out of that battalion and not go back into it again.” I said, “I can’t just walk away from the battalion while there’s reports to write.” none of which was I allowed to do because it was all a big secret. Anyway, I was ordered out, had to leave, so we had to set ourselves up in the theatre that they’ve got up in the barracks in Lavarack Barracks. So we set the headquarters up
there and I left all the rest of the force element within the 2/4 RAR area, but they wanted me out of 2/4. So I set them up in this theatre. Then on the Friday afternoon these people came and started to walk around the place. I said, “What are you doing?” They said, “Sir, what are you doing? We are using this, we’ve got an open weekend for the barracks this weekend and this is where we’re going to set up all our displays and everything in this theatre.” I said, “No, you’re bloody not. We’re using it to get ready
for an operational deployment.” They said, “No, we booked this 12 months ago.” So we went to the headquarters thinking they’ll say, “Bugger off, find somewhere else you guys.” No. “Out you go.” “Where to?” “Don’t know. You’ve got to get out of there because these guys have booked it.” This is the sort of support we’re getting. We didn’t even have higher priority than the people who were running displays for an open day, much less getting any support out of the brigade. And we’ve got all these people that have arrived without notice, some of
them without even uniform, because they didn’t have time to go back from where they were. One bloke was on leave and he didn’t have time to go back to the unit, which was Darwin or Broome or somewhere, so he was sent straight to us in Townsville and we had to completely reequip him because he didn’t have time to go home and get his gear. We’d known about this for two months. We knew we were deploying for two months. I had to run a Steyr [rifle] conversion course for everyone other than my soldiers from the
battalion because none of them had done the conversion to the new weapon they were going to be using. It had been in for about three years but they hadn’t done the training on it. I made them all do the army physical fitness training test, and the navy and the air force don’t have physical fitness training tests so that caused a bit of angst because they decided they didn’t want to do it. So that brought the command relationship to a head very early in the peace. So instead of Land Command playing top cover looking after me I’m getting gorilla-grams [heavy handed messages]
from Land Headquarters saying, “What are you doing making these navy and air force people pass the fitness test?” I’m going back to them saying, “It’s an army-led operation. They’ll meet our standards or they don’t go. I’m telling you, I’m not taking them unless they pass.” So I told the navy and air force people that their complaints had been registered and ain’t going to work. “The two options the army’s got is to sack me because I’m not changing the rules. Guess what? I don’t think
they’re going to sack me in the next two weeks so get your arse out there and pass the test.” And they all did in the end. We’ve got all these people coming in, no idea what they’re getting involved in, no notice about it, no time to sort out any business at home, no time to sort out their administration, they’re not qualified on the weapon they’re going to go with. And we’ve got equipment coming in from all over the Defence Force, everyone just dumping their crap on us and no mechanism to track it,
no idea where it was, what state it was in. The brigade that would have been quite happily able to support us were tasked to go on a test exercise, so it wasn’t one that you take likely, so they had to go out and perform well and it happened to coincide with the operation. So a lot of our (UNCLEAR) felt that the operation basically took very much of a third priority over anything else that was going on, including an open day. So
it was a very difficult period to try and get the right equipment that we needed to do the job over to Rwanda, get it out there in a logical sequence, so we’ve got the most important stuff there first and the other stuff that wasn’t so important last, but if it didn’t arrive, so what - but get the good stuff there first. There was essential equipment that we never got for months. We didn’t have any ventilators in intensive care because they wouldn’t let us take any ventilators out of the
existing military hospital. What are they doing? Taking tonsils out or something like that? But we couldn’t take their ventilators off them, so they brought new ones for us. They hadn’t arrived by the time the last aircraft left and they promised us that they’d be here within days and they’d send them straight to us. I think it took about six weeks to two months before we got them sent to us. The only reason we got them was because I had to ring the Land Commander personally and tell him that he was going to be responsible for a loss of life in Rwanda. He said, “Why?” I told him, and he didn’t know
anything about it. The ventilators had arrived, and with all the promises they were going to send it to us, the last plane had left, they just sent it off to store. Didn’t even bother to send them on. We were sending operational demands back from Rwanda saying, “Were the bloody hell are all these things? The ventilators and everything else?” You’re meant to respond to an operational demand within 24 hours. They were just being totally ignored. So it wasn’t the most ideal of deployments
for us to be involved in.
Seems like every single system that should have been in place wasn’t.
I can’t think of anything in that one that were. The movement system, the logistic system, the planning system, the command system, the whole lot, everything failed. It was just shocking. It was a case of the vested interest. Brigade wanted
to get involved in the planning, didn’t get a guernsey, don’t care. That was basically the attitude. And just being really political. “Our political masters have said we’re not allowed to publicise this operation, so therefore we can’t spend any money.” I was saying to them, “Earmark all this equipment, get it serviced.” No, that would have involved spending money. “We’re told we’re not allowed to publicise.” I said, “But read the intent there.
They don’t want every unit to be put on readiness to go to Africa and have the media on this, ‘What’s happening?’ The intent is not, not to plan for it, not to be ready to go.” That was right. When the government said ‘go’, they expected us to be there within days and quite rightly so. We ended up getting there within a couple of weeks, which is a fairly significant feat for even a formed unit to achieve that, but to create it from nothing and get there within two weeks
with the lack of support that we had. When it came to make it happen, there was a hell of a lot of activity going on to try and make it work. But it was playing catch up. They’re going out and they’re tasking people. They’ve identified where they’re going to get the stuff and they’re telling them, “Send the equipment to them.” but it still had to be serviced, it needed to be inspected, painted, needed to be a whole bunch of things. All of which, everything bar the painting could have been done
well before the government made the announcement, and then you have a contract in place for those things to be painted, get the vehicles to wherever you’re going to deploy them from, paint them and off you go. The choice of dispatch. The mounting area, they chose Townsville. Half the force and about 10 percent of the equipment for the operation came from Townsville but the rest of it came from down south. There was no reason why they couldn’t have had two mounted headquarters and had the equipment going from
say Richmond in Sydney or somewhere like that. So you could have deployed all the equipment and I could have had an element down there checking on that equipment and then have the rest of the force deploying from Townsville. Absolutely no reason why that couldn’t have happened, but it didn’t. They couldn’t even fully load some of the big US aircraft that were coming in. They couldn’t fully load them out of the airstrip in Townsville. So it wasn’t the right place to be flying those kind of aircraft,
but at the time they made that decision we had no idea what we were deploying with, because it was up to the UN to provide the, it wasn’t our movement people’s fault. The UN had to provide the aircraft for us to get there. But what amazed me was that the media seemed to be able to find out when an aircraft was coming in about six hours before our movement staff knew. I was given a schedule to work to and nothing came in on the schedule, it all came in earlier. I’ve got this aircraft coming in. In the end I
disregarded what the movement people told me and if the media rang and said, “There’s an aircraft inbound.” “Good, thank you very much.” And we started preparing for that aircraft and invariably they were right.
That seems absurd.
It’s true though. I don’t know how they found out, but they did.
Why was there so much secrecy?
Well, the government, there’s a lot of political issues concerned with deploying people to the
UN on operations. Even though they might have made a decision on what they were going to send and all that they just wanted to keep their cards close to their chest until they made an announcement. Whether that was the politically opportune time to make an announcement or whether they were trying to negotiate some other issues with the UN and this was the lever for it, I don’t know. I wouldn’t have a clue. But the bottom line is, they didn’t say, “You are not to spend a cent. This is to be treated as top secret
and no one is to know about it.” They just said, “We don’t want this publicised.” I can understand that. The intent there is, “Don’t publicise it, but you tell the people that need to know and you do the planning and you’re ready to go.” But to treat that as they did was absurd. In my case, I’m up there, all my people are ready to go. I had a sports afternoon which I did every Thursday and I said, “Fellows, you all know that I’ve
been over to Africa and the rumour’s around about what’s happening. This is what’s happening. This is who’s going. This is who’s not going. I’ve been told not to tell you, but I’m telling you. You’re grown up. I expect you not to pass the word around, just tell your families. Those of you that are going, get ready. Those of you that aren’t, keep quiet. No one else is to know.” They did it. The word didn’t get out. But I was on exercise. I had a battalion exercise on at the time. There were elements on that exercise who were
deploying to Rwanda, and I knew there were because I had a list of who was going. I’d go and visit them in the field and say, “What do you think about the situation in Rwanda?” trying to get some feedback as to what they knew or not. “Yes, isn’t it terrible? We hope someone’s going to go.” Everyone knew that we’d had reccies [reconnoitres]. “Do you guys reckon you might get a guernsey if it’s on?” “We hope so, Sir.
We’d all like to go if we could.” Talk to the commanding officer, “This is ridiculous. We’ll be going in a couple of weeks and your people that are on the list are not aware of it yet.” He said, “I’ve been told not to tell anyone and I’m not telling.” I said, “I’ve been told not to tell anyone either, but everyone of my people know.” But they wouldn’t tell. That’s just grossly unfair, to put soldiers and their families into that kind of situation when it was totally unnecessary.
The logistic preparation was appalling. The support that we got over there was appalling. I just can’t understand how every one of our systems could have failed us as badly as they did.
What were your people’s immediate concerns when you briefed them?
They had no concerns. Are you talking about my battalion of people? No, they had
no concern. Their main concern was who was, see, these guys are training, have been training for years. They just came offline when 1RAR went online the year before. They went offline for one month when Somalia happened. So they’d been online for 12 months, they go offline, 1RAR comes online and they go to Somalia. So they’re already upset about that. We hadn’t had an operational deployment since Vietnam. These people are not out there wanting to go and kill people, but they’re training
for operations every day, they’ve been doing it for years. It’s nice to be able to go and do an operation occasionally. So they missed out on Somalia and all of a sudden Rwanda came along. Because I was only taking one rifle company out of four that I had in the battalion, I just took it in sequence, because we do a lot of exchange operation exercises. Go to Malaysia, American and other places. The next company that was due to go anywhere was A Company and they got it. Just as simple as that.
In terms of the individuals, I had to fight to get as many of my key people on there as I could because I wanted people that I knew I could trust with me. So I just said, “We’re taking a rifle company and it’s A Company. I’m taking elements of the headquarters and the logistics. These are the people that are going. The rest of you, I know you’d like to go but you can’t, but there will be another rotation and I’m arguing for that the second element, the rotation, comes from here as well.
So there’ll be another company in six months; time and more staff from the headquarters in six months’ time.” And that happened as well. So the people that were picked to go were quite relieved in that they were getting a chance to go and do what they saw as a very important operation. Those that didn’t get picked were very disappointed.
What were you thinking personally? This was your first deployment.
You just take these things in your stride. I didn’t feel anxious about it or anything else. I had a job. I was going to be over there commanding a hospital. I’d never been in a hospital, much less commanded one. That didn’t worry me and the army does prepare you to do different jobs. You do a different job every 18 months, so it never really caused me any anxiety of concern, I
just took it on as another job, but one that was probably going to be significantly more difficult than some of the jobs I’d had in the past.
What was your family’s reaction?
The family…see, I’d been online for two years. I was on 24-hours notice to move, so the family knew that at any point I could be called on to take the battalion somewhere and they had been travelling around the world supporting me and I’d spent a hell of a lot of time away from home.
So being away from home for six month wasn’t a big issue. I’d done that before. Going to somewhere like Rwanda was a concern to them because of the unknown of what was going to happen over there, but they were very supportive. My wife ran the family in that sense, and she certainly never passed any anxieties onto me. She knew I had enough on my plate just to do what I had to do. So she
handled the kids and kept all those issues pretty much to herself.
Tell us about arriving there and those initial first days.
I wasn’t there in the initial first days because all these things that were happening and I needed to fight for every inch of support that we were given. So I sent my operations officer, Simon Gould, he
headed up the advance party and I was on the last aircraft out of Australia. I didn’t go until the 20th of August but I was in daily contact with them, so they were telling us what, we were changing the equipment list basically as they got in country saying, “We need some of these things we haven’t got on our list. You need to get them from somewhere.” They were setting up the hospital, setting up the accommodation area we were going to be using, and the medical people
immediately were straight into action in terms of operating and doing that sort of thing. So it was pretty horrific. The accommodation we were in had been totally looted and blown apart and there was no windows anywhere, there was no running water, no sewerage, septic, power, nothing like that. So a lot of the areas we were going to use had to be cleaned up. There wasn’t large areas for us to use either, so we had
issues there in terms of what kind of facilities we were going to operate. In the hospital it was an absolute mess. They had to clean it up. They had to clean the rooms out in the wing we were going to be using. They has issues like the morgue, the bodies were still in the fridges but the power had been off for three months and when they opened the door the bodies just floated out. They were cleaning all that sort of stuff up.
There was a risk of mines so you had to clear it for mines and booby traps before you could go in and do anything. They were over there two weeks before the main element of the force arrived and they just worked around the clock, so by the time the rest of us arrived they had the accommodation area largely cleaned up and it was set up ready for us to come into, and the hospital wing we were going to be working out of
was set up very well. I didn’t expect them to have achieved as much as they had achieved in the time frame. They must have just about killed themselves doing it. And they did. I was talking to them. Then again, we were working 24 hours a day back in Australia as well, training and doing all the preparation stuff during the day and in the warehouse sorting out equipment that was coming in at night and getting two or three hours sleep at best. So both elements were doing that.
Interviewee: Patrick McIntosh Archive ID 2450 Tape 06
How many were involved in the medical support force?
There were 309 Australians over there, there were 301 of those in the medical support force. There were eight on headquarters, they were a separate element to my unit.
How had your reconnaissance trip
helped the two or three weeks before you got there?
The reconnaissance was essential. Just having that local knowledge of what we’re going into and the state of the facilities that we’re going into. It allowed me to go back and confirm the equipment we were going to need to take, which essentially meant that we took everything we’d need to operate in the field. So we could have operated the hospital off the Greenfield site with what we took because all we were really going to be using in the hospital was the shell of the building. There was no power,
there was nothing there other than that that we could use. We set a lot of that stuff up while we were there but things that we didn’t need to use were tents and stuff like that because we were in a building. But I wanted to make sure that I had the facilities to go into a real Greenfield site in the event that I was moved out of the building accommodation we were in. The reconnaissance was essential to give a feel for the overall situation over there
and be able to talk to the people that were deploying about it as well, what they could expect when they got there.
Had Simon Gould gone over with you before?
No, Simon wasn’t on the reconnaissance. I was the only one from the unit that deployed that were on the reconnaissance.
How did he find your briefings?
I knew Simon very well. He had been my operations officer for a couple of years and
I know the way he thinks and I knew the information he would need, so I think he had a pretty good feel for what would confront him when he arrived, and he certainly didn’t need to be told the sorts of priorities of things to occur. We had some issues. When he went over he’d be ringing me up saying, “We can’t do what you want to because there’s not enough facilities.” I’d just tell him to
make it work because I’d already been there. I insisted on having a sergeants’ mess, officers’ mess and a soldiers’ mess, an area where you could get away and sit down and read a book, just a room where you could be away from the other ranks. I think that’s absolutely essential in an operation such as this where you’re living very close in on top of each other. People were living in rooms
with 20 or 30 people with a stretcher beside each other. They were working very closely together. You needed an opportunity where the officers had a room they could go to, and the soldiers and the senior NCOs so that they could complain about the other side without anyone else being there to say anything. I insisted on that and I used facilities that could have been used for other things. Simon would have
preferred to use those facilities for something else and I wouldn’t let him. In the end it didn’t take him very long to appreciate that we really did need those areas so he understood what we were there to do. He’d been with me, part of the planning forum, and he got over there and made it all work.
What pieces of equipment
were missing after two weeks?
Then main equipment that we really couldn’t do without, but we had to, was some of the medical equipment like ventilators. You’ve got intensive care, and intensive care is about ventilation. So if you’ve got an intensive care unit that doesn’t have ventilators you haven’t got an intensive care unit. So what’s the sense in sending a medical team over there that can do operations and everything else if you’ve got no ventilation capability? So we had
engineers and we ended up bastardising the equipment in the hospital that had been trashed and was quite inferior but we made it work. We thought, “For a few days we can make this stuff work.” We shouldn’t still be doing that six weeks, two months later, so it was mainly that some of that more specialised medical equipment that you couldn’t, because it was expensive you didn’t just have spare ones laying around, but they had to buy for the operation, that didn’t arrive that was really critical for us.
There might have been other stuff that you didn’t get that you didn’t really care about. Comfort things. No one cared about that. It was really the critical operational things that you needed, and because the core business of what we were there for was medical, they were mainly medical bits of equipment that hadn’t arrived that were critical to our operation. They were the things that caused an enormous amount of anger with the medical staff who could not understand
why our logistics system wasn’t bending over backwards to get it. My people were doing the right thing. They were doing everything they could to get it. It was probably my fault in the end that I took longer than I should have to ring up the Land Commander personally, but we were being assured by logistic staff back in headquarters that absolutely everything was being done to get this stuff to us. It wasn’t until I rang the Land Commander and told him the situation and two days later it’s all there that I realised that
this stuff had been there all along and nobody had done anything to get it there. It wasn’t until he got involved that all of a sudden the system decided to work. That made me angry. If there were very real reasons why they couldn’t have sent us this stuff, and I couldn’t understand what that reason was, but they were the critical issues, those key items of medical equipment that we had to do without. I can’t remember the exact timeframe, but it was far too long and it was certainly weeks rather than days.
Was this non-support a case of incompetence or active resentment?
It’s a combination of the two. Put it this way, the staff did not treat us, in fact, they said to us at one point, “We’ve got other units on exercise that we’re also supporting. You are not the only organisation in town.”
I said, “All I want you to do is treat me the same as you do the other people on exercise. You’re not even giving us that priority, because if you’re on exercise you’d be getting the support and we’re not getting it.” You would think that, and this was the only operation that was going on, it’s not as though we’ve got troops all around the world at this point, this is the only thing in town except half a dozen people in Somalia. There was no effort.
Clearly they weren’t there themselves, they weren’t going there themselves and there was no priority given to it whatsoever. I think incompetence is not too strong a word.
It’s been an army that hasn’t been operational in 20 years as far as deployments?
That’s right. And it was the second time, there were some massive logistic problems with Somalia. You would hope that some lessons had been
learned from that, but clearly not.
People wanted that guernsey that you were talking about.
Yeah. That was really the main issue. I couldn’t believe the number of people that turned up to that first conference. I thought, “We’re going to get a lot of help here.” and it didn’t take very long for that conference to run before I knew we weren’t getting any help here. All these people were interested in was saying, “You can’t go into action without some of my people.” It was a vested interest conference. It wasn’t anything to do
with supporting us. It was all a vested interest. It’s after a very long period where we’d had no operations. People were used to supporting exercises. On exercise if you want something you tend to take enough stuff with you for two weeks so it’s pretty rare that you need something anyway, and you’re only going to be there for another week by the time you realise you need it so you can do without it. So you’ve got a logistic system that’s built up around not understanding how you’re meant to respond to an operational demand. How you go on training
and you know that an operational demand must be met within a certain period of time, or it becomes a command issue. All of a sudden you’re on operations and you’re exercising that on your end and it’s just being ignored on the other. So it was an eye opener for me, and I was very, very disappointed.
Were there any changes as you arrive in country for the second time?
was a lot more traffic around now. The war had been won rather than just Kigali so there was a lot more traffic around. There were RPA roadblocks all over the place. There were a lot more people out and about on the streets. Life was trying to come back to normal. Markets were being set up so people got to live, so there was a lot more normalcy back in
the community. There were NGOs that started to come into the country and were setting up in other parts of the hospital we were at, so we weren’t the only ones in the hospital now. They were there as well, just in that period of a couple of months. That’s how long it had been, probably two and a half months from when I had been on reccie to when I was there now. There had been a lot of changes. Not in terms of infrastructure - the war damage hadn’t been cleaned up, that sort of thing. There were a lot of burnt out vehicles on the sides of the roads and that, but just in terms of
the number of people around the streets and the activities that were going on.
So you were going to the hospital. What was your briefing with Simon?
Simon had attended the briefings at force headquarters every day. He would report back to me every day, so we had very good satellite
communications across there. So I had phone communication with him. He could ring me a dozen times a day on new issues that had come up on things that we needed to take, or we might have to change the priority of people that were deploying because they needed someone over there quickly, or whatever. So he was on constant contact with me during the day. He would send a situation report back after they’d get the reporting from the UN on what was happening, he’d send that back to us as well. As part of his report he’d tell us what they’d done during the day, how
they were progressing, what the local security situation was and everything else. So apart from showing me around all the facilities and where he’d decided to put different elements on the ground and running me through the security arrangements that he had in place and all that, in terms of the overall situation I was pretty well briefed. He gave me a formal briefing. He had the logistic staff there, the medical staff there, ready to bring me up to date
in terms of everything that was occurring. He took me over to the UN Headquarters to meet with the UN staff because they were different to the ones that were there when I’d done my visit, and just introduced me to all the key people over there and had organised meetings with the nongovernmental organisation people that were working in the hospital, and other lay people who were within the UN organisation. So pretty much that whole, it was as if I was coming in to do a handover of command where
everything was worked out for me in terms of briefings to bring me up to date. “Here are all the key people, this is their profiles, made appointments for me to meet them, I’ll take you over there.” Again, a very good operator, nothing missed, very, very much a details man. So by the time I finished all those briefings it would have been as if I had been in country myself for the last three weeks and I was ready to crack on.
Were there any surprises that had come up?
Not that I can recall because I was getting word every day, so basically the trip over there was about the only time I was out of contact with him. There was nothing that occurred that I wouldn’t have expected to occur. Issues, problems with the RPA, I’d anticipated that. I hadn’t anticipated that they would attempt to constrain us as much as they did. There were issues with that. But that’s
probably about the only real surprise. I guess the biggest surprise for me when I got there was how much they’d done in that short period of time. I did fully expect to get over there and be spending the next two or three weeks just getting our facilities in a state where we could really start operating properly. But when I got there the place was operational. There was still a lot of work that had to be done over the next few months, but we were able to get on with the job from
day one. That’s the thing that surprised me the most. They were able to do so much in such a short period of time.
Sounds like they did a terrific job.
They did. It was great.
You said they cleaned up the area. That must have been a tough job given all the dead bodies.
There weren’t that many dead bodies in the hospital. Everyone had been killed that was in the hospital, but they had been buried. There were sites in the grounds of the hospital where they’d been buried. So when the RPA won the war the did go and do a
clean up around Kigali because otherwise they would have had a major disease problem if they didn’t. The issue with dead bodies were in places like the morgue, where they’d go down to check out the morgue and open up a fridge and the bodies flow out. So dealing with that kind of horror situation. Other areas like the toilets. There was no sewerage, no water, but people had been using the toilets and they just piled on top.
You’ve got piles of excrement about two foot high. The only way they could get that out was to put rubber gloves on and get their hands in there and throw it out. Because we had water we were able to get those toilet systems working again in our favour. If I hadn’t seen it, when they described what they had to do to someone who didn’t know they’d probably say, “That must have been terrible.” but I’d seen that when I was over there and I said, “Christ, they have to clean this up.” These were the poor buggers that had to do it.
They’re explaining how horrible it was to do all those jobs and I can understand because I’d seen it, whereas the others that hadn’t been there as part of it could only try and imagine. I can assure you, they would not have been able to properly imagine.
How had they coped with this job?
The coped pretty well. It’s amazing when you’re in a situation like that where you have so few people doing something that’s fairly much an overwhelming job.
You have no choice but to just get in and do it. We didn’t have anybody who were saying, “No, I’m not going to do that.” Everyone just knuckled down. Even if it wasn’t their job to do that, they did it. For the next couple of weeks we were there setting everything up absolutely everybody just got in and did whatever needed to be done. We had no trouble with anybody being overtly affected by it. Over time there were some psychiatric
issues associated with the things they had to do and what they eventually did end up witnessing in terms of the death that occurred in Rwanda. While they’d cleaned up, what had happened in Kigali, it hadn’t happened virtually anywhere else. So you go outside Kigali and there’s dead bodies everywhere. It was only a matter of days. Two days after I arrived in country we were deployed down to the southwest sector. So we didn’t stay very long in Kigali.
How many were deployed there?
We deployed about a third of the force into the southwest sector because the French had come in there. They had Operation Turquoise in the southwest sector. They came in through Zaire. They basically came in to protect the Hutus more than anything else, I think. Also to limit the world condemnation
that was going to come their way for their assistance to the Rwandan government and forces that committed the genocide. I don’t say they assisted the genocide, but they assisted the forces. So there was a whole bunch of reasons why they came into that operation and they had to be out by, I think it was the 22nd of August. If they weren’t out by the 22nd of August the RPA was going to fight them. If they didn’t have someone to take over in that sector they, the RPA, would have probably
gone in and cleaned out the displaced persons camps, and they had a particular approach for doing that. So the UN had to deploy down there almost immediately. So we got in on the 20th on the last aircraft and the 22nd we were down in Butare setting up a treatment section down there.
Did you go down there as well?
Yes, I went down with that first force just to have a look at the situation down there and work out what we needed on the ground, where we were
going to set it up, how to talk to the UN tactical headquarters down there, work out exactly what needed to be done and just oversee that. Then I came back to Kigali. Spent a fair bit of time on the road travelling between all the deployed elements we had around the place. I went down with that first element.
What were the sights like down there?
The first trip down to Butare, we took APCs [Armoured Personnel Carriers] down there, Armoured Personnel Carriers, because we weren’t sure
what the situation was going to be like. It’s very hilly country, Rwanda, and the APCs are not too good on hills. So we’re in Land Rovers and the APCs were struggling to get up these hills. I was just driving along. It’s quite a pretty country and I’m looking at it, looking up at the trees and not taking too much notice of what’s at the base of the trees. You hadn’t quite picked up at this point what the smell was. I’d never smelled rotten bodies before. They had
a very distinctive smell. We stopped on the side of the road just waiting for the APCs to catch up behind us and we noticed on the side of the road there was a lot of belongings that had just been strewn around and one of them was a wedding album. You could see the people in it were quite well off. We’re thinking, “I wonder what happened to them?” Then we saw, just up the hill a little bit we had some diggings going. So there was a track that had been recently walked on so, we’ll just walk up that,
shouldn’t really mind, and have a look and see what’s up there. We went up there and there’s a mass grave. It was just a big hole and there were just lots of bodies in it and around it. All of them had been decapitated. So obviously they had decided to dig it but never got around to filling it in. So we went back down to the vehicle and just on the other side of the road, sitting up against a tree, was a body that had been decapitated. Hadn’t even noticed it when we first stopped
there. Again, just not looking for that sort of thing, just looking around the countryside. All of a sudden, just in this one place that we’d stopped and there’s a body there, there’s a hole full of them sitting up there. Then we put two and two together, “That’s what the smell is.” As we were driving along from that point onwards I’m looking down into the undergrowth of the trees and there’s dead bodies everywhere. These people have been trying to get away and they’ve been hacked to pieces. Decapitated, legs chopped off. So
all of a sudden you think, “This is the Rwanda we’ve been seeing on TV.” Then wherever you went from then on, you’d go to the missions and try and set up clinics and things and the first thing you do is have a look around where the occupants are. They would be somewhere. They’d either still be in the building or out the back. They’d all been killed. That’s what we became used to. That was everywhere. I refused to allow any of my people to
clean up dead bodies. We were going to be confronted with enough horror without doing that. It’s not a medical function, it’s a logistics function, so even though I was asked to get involved in that I refused to do it. We cleaned up the dead bodies in the facilities that we were going to be using but that was it. I wouldn’t allow my people to do it anywhere else. The Rwandans themselves have got a religious belief that if someone dies they bury them almost immediately, within hours.
They believe that if you haven’t buried the body within 24 hours the spirit escapes and that’s not a good thing. So they tend not to want to touch the dead after a day. So these bodies that had been there for some time, a lot of the people weren’t about to go in there and try and clean them up. A lot of the people had been killed in churches and driven into dams and shot and things like that. But you go down to
these churches and there’d be 1,000 to 1,500 bodies in the churches, dead. Outside the churches they’d pulled the women out and raped them. It didn’t leave anything to the imagination what had happened to these women that were laying on the ground outside the church before they were killed. You go into the kindergarten beside the church and there were kids, they were dead. No one was cleaning that up. This was
when we left as well. This was six months later. They were still there. I went out to visit a clinic one day and I was helping, one of the doctors was amputating a woman’s arm. They were doing it on a ketamine anaesthetic, which doesn’t put the patient out, it just puts them into a trance. Some of them don’t respond to it too well and she wasn’t responding to it too well. So I was there visiting. She said, “Can
someone help us hold?” I’m in there holding her down while she’s taking this arm off. Then the priest came along and said, “Who’s in charge?” I said, “I am.” He said, “Can you come and witness a mass grave for us?” I said, “Yeah, OK. I can do that.” So we went up the road and we went down. He said, “It’s around this lake.” He starts walking down this the stream. I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “We’re going down.” I said, “No, you’re not. There’s mines everywhere.” Cos what we were treating were mainly mines and gunshot wounds. There’s just
mines everywhere and they mine tracks. That’s what they did. They put a cluster of four mines on a track so that if someone stepped on the mine, which were usually family groups, then they’d blow that one up. Then the rest of the family comes to help and they’d set off the rest of the mines and the whole lot would go. So they were a fairly sick mob. So you didn’t just walk on a track unless you could see it was a track that had been well worn and very recently. So we eventually got down to the lake by a route that I was happy to travel on
and he’s looking in the water saying, “They were all driven into the lake and they were shot in the lake.” We’re looking into this lake and we couldn’t…I said, “Look, if they’d been shot they’d be skeletal by now. We’d be able to see the skeletons. They’re not there.” He went off and found a farmer and was really frustrated. I said, “I thought you said you witnessed this.” He said, “I was driven out of here.” He’d only just arrived back. He said, “I was driven out at the time and then I witnessed it and then I got away. So I’m telling you, I’ve only just arrived back. It
definitely happened.” I said, “Well, there’s no evidence in there of the bodies that you’re talking about.” So I went and saw this farmer and the farmer said, he had a look up the hill. The locals had in fact got into the water and pulled all these bodies out and buried them on the side of the lake because they needed the water. So they would move bodies if there was a necessity, but they wouldn’t do it unless they needed to. If they were coming back to their house and there were bodies in it, they’d do that, but they certainly weren’t
going to do a general clean up of bodies. When you stepped back from the lake and looked up then it became very obvious. You could see this whole area around the side of the lake that had been dug up. They’re only hay cultivators and they weren’t digging big graves here, they were just digging a fair bit down, covering them up and you’d go up to it and there were just lines of bodies and dogs had been eating them. And you could see they’d all been shot in the head. So
what he’d said was right. They had driven them into the lake and shot them. Then the local farmers, after they had finished, had pulled them out of the lake and buried them. So this was pretty much the scenes wherever you went. There was just this carnage.
It sounds like the worst kind of horror movie.
Yeah, you had to brace yourself for it. I found my people wanting,
because not everyone went down to Butare in the first instance, a lot of them were still working out of the hospital in Kigali. They weren’t seeing this. I found them inventing trips for many reasons to get out of town. Soon as I found out they were doing that I put a stop to it. I said, “There’s enough death in this country that you’re going to witness without you going and finding it.” because it’s a cumulative effect. This is what people don’t understand. You see a dead body and you’re shocked by it. You see a second one and you’re not
quite as shocked. After a while you think you’re immune to it. But the shock of it all is cumulative. So the more of it you see the more of an effect it will eventually have on you. So therefore you’ve got to minimise it, and you’ve also got to make sure that you don’t personalise it. I used to keep on telling them, “Stop worrying about the dead. We didn’t create it, we weren’t here at the time, think about the ones we’re saving, stop thinking about the ones
we’re not saving. Be very objective about the whole bloody thing. OK, you’re over the initial shock of seeing a dead body, but just keep on being positive about what it is that we’re doing over there, which is an enormous amount of good and stop dwelling on the horrors of the place.” Some could do it, some couldn’t. Unfortunately those that couldn’t are having problems.
How did you manage
to deal with it?
I didn’t have any trouble at all to be honest with you. I never had, haven’t had since either. There were some days when I’d come back to Kigali after being a few days out and witnessed some bloody horrible things and I’d pinch myself and think, “You should be upset about this. You’re taking this too well.” I guess if I was concerned about anything it was the fact that I was taking it so well. I suppose I just believed in my own
rhetoric I was telling everyone. “This is how you’ve got to be.” I was living it. I don’t know. It’s never affected me at all. I’ve never had a sleepless night while I was there or since I’ve been back. I don’t think about it a lot, and when I do think about it, it doesn’t grossly upset me because what I do think about is what we did to help people over there.
You mentioned voyeurism. Where did that come from?
It came from people having seen all this horror on TV, coming over here to Rwanda expecting to see it, then getting into Kigali and not seeing it. Then finding out from others that had been out of Kigali that it’s there all right. I guess a lot of it was they wanted to test themselves to see how
they were going to cope with it, and probably had been bracing themselves thinking, “How am I going to bloody cope with this?” Then all of a sudden it wasn’t there and they wanted to see. But it only happened once that I was aware of. I was up in my office and I had the radios there. One of the company commanders radioed in saying, “We’re leaving now.” They gave the normal amount of information about
where they were going. Where he was going was to a town which had a church that had a mass grave that was full of dead bodies, and it wasn’t one of the tasks that had been assigned to anybody. So I got on the radio and said, “Stop the convoy and come back now. You come and see me.” I said, “What are you doing?” “We were going.” I said, “Don’t give me any bullshit. What were you doing?” “We wanted to go down and have a look at such and such in the church.”
I said, “You guys are going to see enough dead bodies around here doing official tasks. You are not going to go and invent some task yourself. Don’t ever do it again.” So I got the message out to them early in the piece that I was not going to tolerate it. A) the security situation was such that you didn’t go and do trips you didn’t have to do, and B) you certainly didn’t want to expose your soldiers to viewing more dead bodies than they needed to, because every one of them was going to get enough of that.
Is it a case of
like a car accident?
Yeah, everyone stops. It’s that sort of thing. I don’t know. I hadn’t expected it as soon as it happened. I knew it was happening and I thought, “I’ve got to put a stop to this.” I don’t know why the hell someone would want to go down to have a look at a church full of dead people. I went to those places on several occasions myself, but it wasn’t because I wanted to, it was because I had a task down there that
required me to have people there and I’d go down and visit them while they were there.
Did you know what they were going to do with all the dead bodies?
A lot of them, as people came back to the villages, they had no choice but to clean them up because they had to live there. So by necessity they would get in and clean up dead bodies, but they didn’t like doing it,
and certainly nobody else wanted to do it for them. But a lot of these scenes, like the churches and that, the new government and the RPA wouldn’t let anybody touch them because they were going to maintain them as a shrine of the memories so that there was evidence of what the previous government had done. They were just going to leave them that way. So they had no intention of cleaning it up and didn’t want anybody else to clean it up. I remember
going down to, there was a forensic organisation that had been brought in to gather evidence for war crimes into Rwanda. We went down to this church one day and when we got there, there was a massive fight going on between the RPA and this civilian organisation. So we stepped in to stop anyone from getting hurt, as we were meant to do as the UN Force. I was
trying to find out what the hell had happened. I said to the head forensic scientist that was there, “What’s the problem?” He said, “They’re bloody lunatics. This guy’s just gone ballistic for no reason.” I looked over towards the church and they’ve got skulls all lined up in rows. I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “We’re doing a forensic examination of this scene.” I said, “What are you trying to achieve?” He said, “We want to estimate the number of
people that were killed here.” I said, “How are you doing that?” He said, “We’re just going to collect all the skulls and line them up and count them.” I said, “Do you have any idea of the spiritual beliefs of these people? Do you have any idea that they have decided to maintain this site as it is at the moment? That’s what he’s upset about. You’re bloody lucky he hasn’t shot you.” He just couldn’t understand it. So I said, “Get out of here. You’re not doing any more of this.” We
just got them out of there. They just had no concept. So here are these people coming in from New York or wherever and conducting a New York-style forensic examination of a crime scene just so they could estimate the number of people that are dead. God, stand at the window, do a quick count. “There’s probably about, they estimate 1,000 to 1,500, yup, that’s about it.” Doesn’t matter if it’s 2,000, doesn’t matter if it’s only 1,200. You know, there are witnesses, we’ve already
found witnesses since we’ve been down here who survived it who can attest to exactly what happened. They know exactly who did it. That sort of total lack of understanding of the local culture and of what they need to do to make a difference. You’d be confronted by that sort of thing all the time.
This was a UN agency?
No, these were civilians who had
been contracted by whoever, I don’t know, I think more to do with the war crimes tribunal or the organisation that was doing that at the time. Sending these people in to conduct an examination to try and gather evidence to support future war crimes. The sort of evidence you need is to find witnesses and find out who did it and who was responsible for it, when did it happen and how many people did it and where did they come from, what uniforms did the wear and that sort of thing. Not go and drag the skulls
out and measure them to work out what age the person was that died and how many of them there were, which is what they were doing. Just unbelievable.
It’s like 1,000,000 people or something.
There was about 800,000 to 1 million people being killed and these guys are finding the skulls and measuring the size of them. They didn’t last very long. The RPA just kicked them out of the country. Unbelievable.
How did the first few weeks of operating go?
One of the first things that I did when I got in the country was I wanted to work out what we could do to make a difference in Rwanda. We had been given a dual mission. Our primary mission was to provide medical support to the UN and that was what the UN wanted us to do and that’s all the UN
was going to pay for. When the Keatings [Prime Minister of Australia] farewelled us from Australia they announced that we were going over there, the media assumed that we were going to provide a medical force, we were going over there and help those poor people in Rwanda, which is not an unreasonable assumption. Everyone was saying, “This is great. You’re going to be over there helping these people.” And we weren’t. We were going over there to provide medical support to the UN. Paul Keating
tried to explain that and said, “We are indirectly helping them because we are going to be providing support to the UN who will be helping the people, but we’re not going to be providing medical support to the people.” That didn’t go over very well. So enormous amount of criticism over that. So then he changed it and said, “But of course, if there is any spare capacity, they will provide medical support to the local people.” So our mission was then changed to do two things. Only problem is, nobody was paying. So when I got there I thought, “We have to work out
in terms of providing support to the local people, what is it we can do that will be enduring so that we can go away from here thinking we really did make a difference in Rwanda.” There’s a real risk when you go on these sorts of operations that you can have the scattergun approach where you go off and do a million little things that don’t make a bit of difference in the long run. At the end of the day you might go away with a feel good attitude, but no lingering benefit achieved whatsoever.
So you’re better off trying to pick one or two big things that you can do that nobody else can do that you can start and hopefully finish in the timeframe that you’re going to be there. Something that will be enduring that the benefit of that will be there in generations’ time. So we looked at it and decided that the best thing we could do was the re-establish the health system in Rwanda, which was totally destroyed by the genocide. It was a fairly basic health system, so it wasn’t an impossible task, but it was a task
that we could only do if we were supported by the nongovernmental organisations. So I had a meeting with all the medical nongovernmental organisations when I first got there. Introduced myself and the unit and said what we were here to do and what we were not here to do. “We’re part of the UN, we’re here to provide medical support for the UN and that’s all they’ll pay for, that’s all they want us to do. However, I am willing to do more. What we intend to do is re-establish the health system in Rwanda
and we need your assistance to do that, we can’t do it buy ourselves.” And given the fact that I know they will never operate cooperatively with the military or with each other, I knew that I had to induce them to provide that support to me. So I told them what capability I brought to the country, what I could do in the hospital. I could get power going, water on for them, I could provide laundry facilities, x-ray facilities, pathology facilities, everything you need to
operate a hospital. They couldn’t do any of that themselves. I said, “I am willing to provide that support to any NGO organisation here in the hospital who is willing to assist us to re-establish this hospital as a referral hospital, which is what it was before. And we’re going to operate under the administrator of the hospital. It’s got to be seen to be run by the Rwandans. They’re there as administrator of the hospital.” They’re going, “No way. We’re not going to do this.”
I said, “It’s the only way we’ll operate. We’ll operate through the administrator of the hospital, we will get him to formulate a plan, we’ll assist him in the formulation of that plan and then we will work towards the achievement of that plan and you will have a role in that plan. The only people I’ll provide any support to are those that support the plan. If you don’t support the plan, I will not provide any support to you. There is nothing anyone can do to compel me, because the UN don’t want me to help you anyway.”
Interviewee: Patrick McIntosh Archive ID 2450 Tape 07
We then set about establishing a plan and we gave that to the administrator for him to sign off on. He was not capable of doing this. You’ve got to remember that all the educated people in Rwanda had been killed. So they had to bring people in from anywhere around the world that had already left the country over previous years and give them jobs.
This person was not up to this job - this is one of the reasons the NGOs didn’t want to work under him, but it had to be done that way. It couldn’t be seen as us re-establishing the health system in Rwanda, the UN would never have allowed that to occur anyway. But they also had to have ownership of what was happening. So we established the plan and got him to sign it and we issued it. Basically we compelled the other NGOs to assist him. It was an issue of
they didn’t want to cooperate with each other. Most of them didn’t like to cooperate with the UN military either because they had anti-military bias, which a lot of nongovernmental organisations have got. I can understand that. They see the military as the cause of all evil and they don’t seem to differentiate between the bad guys and the good guys, because what they see is, “You might be wearing a UN beret this week, but next year’s time we could be back in another country where you guys are doing this.”
So I can understand where they’re coming from. So there had to be some inducement for them to come onboard. We made them set up facilities. We made them operate nights and weekends. For the first few months we did that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and then we forced them to take on their responsibility for running after-hours operating clinics and weekend clinics and things like that. So that worked. We were able in the 12 months, we
were only there six months but another force took over from us, in that 12 months we were able to re-establish that health system within Rwanda. I also deployed elements out to missions, clinics around the countryside, which was the other part of the health system, to identify where they’d been, if anyone was still alive that had any medical training, and we would send medical teams out to those facilities about one day a week and run clinics for people. And just
kept on doing that during the 12 months we were there. Trying to get NGOs to get involved in those clinics was not possible because of the security situation out in those remoter areas. They weren’t willing to go there. We set out to do that, and that’s what we achieved in the timeframe we’d set ourselves to do it. We’re not talking about establishing a health system like Australia, we’re talking about re-establishing a fairly rudimentary health system which was based on having outlying
clinics with some fairly low-level medical support where they could dispense some drugs and things like that. Anybody that needed any more advanced care went into the referral hospital in Kigali, which was the hospital we were in. In that referral hospital they were able to be seen by more specialised people who can diagnose what they had, operate if necessary and that sort of thing. Essentially we were able to re-establish that system during the period we were there.
What NGOs are we talking about here?
There was a large number of NGOs in the hospital. We had emergency, which just did emergency surgery. There were a few philanthropic organisations, American ones operating the child, natal areas and maternity wards. There was another organisation that did some general medicine.
They were all in competition with each other even though they were doing different things. They were in competition for the money, for the kudos and everything else, which we found incredibly frustrating. When we first got into the hospital, and this happened for some time, these NGOs would do their job without any consideration for anybody else and the additional services that were needed within the hospital.
So, for instance, there was no nursing staff provided in that hospital whatsoever. And there wasn’t beforehand either. There were some nurses, but if you send someone into hospital, you come with them and you set up your cooking pot outside and prepare their meals and everything else, so there wasn’t a catering service in the hospital. We went over to the wards where emergency was doing these operations and it was cutting legs and arms off, and they’re going over to the wards and they had one or two people over there
trying to help people. But they didn’t have access to the pharmacy if they needed to keep people alive. The stench in the wards was just shocking. How they could sleep in there is beyond me. Nobody survived it. Nobody got out of there alive. They stayed in there until they died. Then there was a bed free and they’d operate and bring somebody else in and that was what was happening. So the other part
of re-establishing the whole system was to fix this up. So our nursing staff and medical assistants would go across there and we helped straight away by just cleaning the hospital up. We had the ability to pay UN money to people to do that. Clean it up and fumigate the place and disinfect it. Burn all the blankets and wash and give them some new ones and launder it so all of a sudden the place started
to smell OK. Then our nursing staff would train the families of the people that had been operated on in how to treat stump wounds, because they were mainly stump wounds. We gave them the pharmaceutical gear that they needed to, bandages and disinfectant and that sort of stuff. So all of a sudden we had a situation where people were getting operated on, recovering and leaving, alive. So fairly quickly we were able to get to a stage, within a couple of months, where
the rudimentary elements of the hospital were starting to work. So we could see some benefits in our plan to try and help these people in the longer run. The biggest problem we had with the hospital was that nobody would pay for any of this support we were providing. We took a few million dollars worth of gear over there with us, pharmacy gear, and we used it up very, very quickly, because we were operating 24
hours a day, seven days a week because there was just a massive number of people that had survived what had happened to them, but they were still carrying massive injuries. We had to try and help them. When we put our first bill to the UN to get a resupply of all this gear that we’d used they rejected it. They said, “No, our records say that you’ve only treated three UN people.” or whatever it was, a very small number. Cos the UN weren’t doing anything. They weren’t leaving their barracks. They
weren’t doing anything that was going to get themselves injured, and because they weren’t, and we had a secondary mission, we were doing an enormous amount to help the local people. So we consumed a whole lot of our supplies. I kept a fair bit in reserve and the UN refused to pay. So we sent an account back to Australia and said, “You’ve given us a secondary mission, this is what it costs, pay up.” And they wouldn’t pay. We were in a situation where we’d run down our supply of pharmacy gear, the UN refused to get us any more,
Australia wouldn’t pay, and we were in the throes of trying to execute this plan of ours to re-establish a health system and we’d be doing absolutely nothing if we were just sitting there looking after the UN. So we ended up working a deal with Pharmacie Sans Frontiers. By this time they had a fair, they’d seen what we were doing and had a fair bit of faith in us.
We effectively got ourself registered as an NGO for the provision of primary health care. They agreed to provide us with the pharmacy-type things that we needed to provide primary health care outside of the hospital, provided we didn’t use any of it inside the hospital. So anyone who came into the hospital got treated exactly the same as they would have with one of ours, outside the hospital we were able to use a lot of the gear we got from Pharmacie Sans Frontiers. That cut down on
the amount we were using. Also, I found we had taken over there a lot of sterilised kits, which are very expensive, and you open them up every time you do an operation and you use a fraction of what’s in there, you do the operation and just throw it in the bin. I used to go into the theatres, reluctantly, but I was dragged in there initially, but after that I used to go fairly regularly to watch them do these operations. “What are you doing?” “Sterilised stuff, once you finish it.” I said, “But you’re pulling another one up
immediately whilst in the operation. This has got to stop. You’ve got sterilisation gear here that we brought across. I know you’re short on staff, but you’re not going to use…this is what’s costing us the money. We can’t get the money for it.” So we started to sterilise gear instead of using these. So there were many things that suddenly everyone had to do to cut the cost of providing medical support. “You bring a UN person in here, use one of those kits if you want to. But unless it’s a UN person, you sterilise the gear.”
So we were able to save on a lot of the stuff we had initially used to cut down on the cost. We still weren’t going to get around the problem like that, so we got the UN to define the dependency, because we were providing medical support to all the expat community in Rwanda. By agreement they had agreed to provide medical support to the RPA VIPs [very important persons] and the new government VIPs,
but didn’t define what they were. A lot of these people considered themselves to be very important and they’d turn up for medical support. They eventually agreed to define them as dependants, which gave us a wider base of people that I could say, “Here are all these people we have treated so therefore pay some money.” The coup de grace was when we were using a lot of locals in just labouring jobs. Not just us, but the whole UN Force was.
There was about 60 percent of the population had AIDS [Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome] and a lot of that percentage had TB [Tuberculosis]. So we as the medical force said that, “We can’t allow you to hire locals to work unless they’ve been given medical clearance. They need to be checked.” They said, “(UNCLEAR)” I said, “We’re providing the medical (UNCLEAR), and we’re telling you they do. They cannot allow there people to work unless they’ve been tested.” Also, by then being UN employees,
if they got sick we really are obliged to care for them. They fought this one like you wouldn’t believe, but eventually they gave in and said OK. The beauty of it was they had no idea who these people were because there was no official record kept of who they were. So from that point on, when I put our bids in for more pharmacy gear, we had all these local names on there written down as UN employees and they had no way to prove or disprove it, other than the fact they knew it was lies, but they couldn’t deny it. We were then at least officially
able to get some gear to replenish the stocks that had been written down. Also I had a government gold card, and when I couldn’t get it from anywhere I’d just send my staff over to Nairobi and just go and buy it on the government card and we’d sort it out later. So it was frustrating in that the UN didn’t want us to do any of this and they were quite happy for us to sit there and do nothing, because there were no UN people doing anything. Australia
were very happy to take kudos for what we were doing. Every time the government would get on TV they’d talk about the wonderful job the Australians are doing with medical support, and here’s the UN who refused to pay for this and could say, “Yes, we are good, aren’t we?” Australia was quite happy to have our media over there saying what a wonderful job the Australians were doing over in Rwanda, but they wouldn’t pay. So that was the cause of great frustration for us. But we eventually worked our way around all those problems,
and between the NGOs, the UN, the gold card and our own ability to use less of the more expensive stuff, we were able to get the job done.
Sounds like you were an innovative hospital administrator.
It wasn’t just me. I said me, but I’ve got medical staff who are all going, “How the hell can we get around this problem? So let’s find a solution here.” I guess
I’m the one that was fighting it with the UN, but the staff were all running around trying to find a solution and a solution was found. I was just the guy who had to go and do the head banging over at the UN and insisting that the payment was made, and eventually I authorised for the gold card to be used. You had to be innovative over there if you were going to get anything done.
It sounds like a crazy situation. The UN
was promoting themselves as helping the people and yet this is the situation.
The UN is controlled by the administrators. The chief administration officer controls the cheque book. So if you went over to the force commander and said, “I need money for the hospital.” he’d say, “Yes, absolutely. You’re doing a great job.” But he couldn’t get the money out of the chief administration officer because he had no control over it. It’s quite a weird command control
relationship that exists within the UN. If I’m running a force here in Australia and my people come to me and say, “We’re doing this and this is what it’s going to cost.” I’ll go to the administration and say, “Find money for this.” and they’d go and find the money for it. In this situation, the UN Force commander said, “Yes, I want you to do this and I’m happy for you to do it.” and the administrator said, “I don’t care if he’s happy for you to do it, that’s not what you’re authorised to do and we’re not paying.” End of story, and the force commander doesn’t own the administrator.
He’s got no command authority over him whatsoever. So this is a problem. So you have one element of the UN who were more than happy with letting us do what we were doing, hence taking the kudos for what happened. There was another part of the UN who controlled the money who were saying, “No, this is not what you were tasked to do and I’m not paying for it.”
How were your personal dealings with the UN people?
I found the whole experience very frustrating to be honest with you. They were very personable, don’t get me wrong. The force commander was a very nice guy, the chief operations officer, they were all very nice people, and they were all over there trying to do the best they could do for Rwanda and they were no doubt doing the best job they could. But I found that they had no idea of
what was required under a Chapter Six operation, what you could do under a Chapter Six operation versus a Chapter Seven of the UN charter-style operation. They had no idea of where the mandate was in terms of the Chapter Six/Chapter Seven, the mandate, how the rules of engagement and the orders for opening fire and that sort of thing need to flow from the mandate and the
mission and the tasks that we’d been given. There was an enormous amount of emphasis on this being a Chapter Six operation. A Chapter Six operation is a compliance operation. It’s the Golan Heights where you’re sitting on a hill observing two forces and passing back information. You tend not to be armed in those operations. Chapter Seven operation is where you’ve got more robust rules of engagement and people accept the fact that you’re allowed to use force
in that operation. Everything that happened over there, and everything that didn’t happen, it all happened in the name of a Chapter Six operation. We couldn’t do that. “No, you can’t do that under a Chapter Six operation. No, we really should be forcing our way through these roadblocks, but you can’t, we’re only on a Chapter Six operation.” I was just constantly onto them about the fact that this is nothing to do with a Chapter Six operation. Chapter Six, Chapter Seven, it’s all about
whether you can force your way into a country. Once you’re in the country you’re ruled by your mandate. The mandate is what’s been agreed by the country that you’re involved in. Rwanda was a non-permanent member of the UN at the time that this was occurring. They’d authorised the peace mission, the UN had authorised the peace mission. They’d given us quite a robust mandate, and that was to protect anybody who is under threat in Rwanda, and we had rules of engagement that allowed us to do that. Yet,
the UN Force wasn’t going to exercise any of those quite robust rules of engagement to achieve the mandate because they just stepped back from the fact that we were on a Chapter Six operation. “We can’t do that under a Chapter Six operation.” I was constantly frustrated by the fact that they had no concept of what a mandate was in my view. They had no idea of what you could or could not do under that mandate with the rules of engagement that had been agreed.
They took a very limited view of the right for self defence. Under our rules of engagement you’re able to exercise force in self defence, but because our mandate said that we were there to provide protection to anyone under threat in Rwanda, that self defence could quite legally be extended to defence of anybody who’s under threat. So therefore if you came across and incident where people were being shot
you could use force to protect them, because that was what your mandate required, that was what your rules of engagement allowed. But the UN took the view that you can only operate in self defence. So unless somebody is shooting at you personally you cannot use force in retaliation. And that’s not what our mandate was about, and it was not with our rules of engagement allowed, but they took that very limited view of the definition of self defence and they used it the whole time we were there.
And I didn’t, I took a very broader view of the right to self defence. I looked at the mandate. I had a legal officer over there who was giving me a legal opinion on this and we examined this. My interpretation of that mandate was that we were there to protect the people under threat. I knew what the status of forces agreement was. I made sure everyone in the force knew what the status of forces agreement was, what the RPA was allowed to do, what we were allowed to do, what we weren’t allowed to do.
They had no right to arrest anyone from the UN, for instance, they had no right to come into any of our facilities. And we used that. If they tried to, we threw them out. We didn’t go into theirs either because we weren’t allowed to. That was all about being impartial and being seen to be impartial. We had helped develop the rules of engagement that we had in operation over there because I had the only legal officer in the country. UN didn’t even have one. So their understanding from a legal perspective of what we were there to do, they didn’t understand
it very well. The force commander was a logistics officer and he didn’t have a lot of training in this area. And he’s got a headquarters that’s comprised of all the countries that have provided troops to the operation and that’s how they do it. So you’ve got all these staff officers who speak different languages, have different levels of training. Most of them didn’t have a clue what rules of engagement were. They come from countries where this concept is alien to them.
So we were operating in a country where people had been killed every day, we’ve got a UN Force that hardly ever left its barracks because the RPA didn’t want them to and they set up roadblocks everywhere and told them they weren’t to go past the roadblocks and they didn’t, they just went back to their barracks. They were tasked to do a job, they go to the nearest roadblock and they go back to their barracks. So the RPA were controlling the UN and doing that quite overtly. That’s what I mean. If we’d been just over there to treat the UN
we wouldn’t have been doing much work because they weren’t doing anything. They weren’t about to get killed or injured or anything else. So we were living with this frustration and I wasn’t about to be labelled the same way they were. So we did a lot of training, we worked to establish a rules of engagement that were consistent with the mandate and the task that the UN Force had been given. Initially when we got there the UN-issued
rules of engagement that allowed us to put in roadblocks to confiscate weapons, and we just went back to them and said, “This is nonsense. What are you defining as weapons? Most these people were killed with machetes and hoes. These are also farming. You’ve got to take all their farming instruments off them. The RPA’s got a roadblock on every corner and you want us to put one in-between? For what purpose? And your rules of engagement don’t allow us to do that. They don’t allow us to control the population, we’re only allowed to protect people that
are under threat.” So they had rules of engagement that weren’t consistent with the mandate at all, but were quite offensive things they were wanting us to do. The things that we should have been able to do was step in and use force to protect someone to save their life. They weren’t willing to do that. So as it turns out, virtually every force that was over there as par of the UN had their own interpretation of the rules of engagement. Mine was quite a robust one. We never stepped back from a roadblock. We always went forward, we never came back.
You’re given a task, you do the task. If you’re on a call out, you’ve got one minute at the roadblock. That’s all you’re given and after that you go over the top of it. If you’re not on a call out, if it’s not an urgent task, you can take longer to negotiate your way through, but you go through. You will not come back. That set us off on a collision course with the RPA from day one. Whenever they came across a situation where people were being killed or about to be killed they stepped in and they stopped it,
they took people under protective custody and they were prepared to use force to protect them, which is what the mandate and the rules of engagement allowed. But we were the only ones doing it, and because of that the RPA kept complaining to the UN about these bloody Australians. “Why aren’t they complying? Why aren’t they doing what everyone else is doing?” The force commander would come and see me and say, “Pat, why? All these issues, incidents that are happening in this country, it’s always
your fault. You’re providing the medical support.” I said, “Sir, you give us a task, we do the task. You’ve got 5,000 infantry out there that haven’t done a bloody thing you’ve asked them to do all year. I’m sorry, this is how we do business, and this is how we’ll continue to do business.” He didn’t have any great grief with that. His grief was the 5,000 other who wouldn’t do it. He never really fought the issue strongly enough. I used to go to prayers every morning and listen to what they had to say. After one morning of frustration
I took a copy of the mandate over with me, and when it was my time to brief the headquarters in what we’d been doing I said to the force commander, “I’ve got a document here that’s like you to read. I doubt that you’ve ever seen it.” “What is it?” “It’s a copy of the mandate. I suggest we have a look at it and we work out what we’re meant to be doing and we start doing it or we go home.” He let me get away with it.
That’s what it was like. You’ve got a headquarters that either used Chapter Six as an excuse for doing nothing, or they had such a lack of understanding of what Chapter Six/Chapter Seven mandate and which one took priority that they couldn’t quite work out what they were meant to be doing. I think it wasn’t just they didn’t want to do anything,
they did want to help, they did want to do something, but the RPA allowed to UN to be there as a form of international legitimacy, but they didn’t want us to do what we were there to do. They controlled them. The rest of the force fell into line and used the fact that it was a Chapter Six operation to allow them to do it. So they took the bucks, didn’t do their job.
The RPA did whatever they wanted to around the country. Unfortunately we didn’t, so we ended up having a few run-ins with the RPA along the way.
Were shots fired by Australian soldiers?
No, by us. The only reason for that, we had a lot of incidents where our blokes were in positions ready to return fire should they engage us because of
things we’d done to protect people or whatever, but the RPA were never willing to take it. I made it very clear to my people that they could not fire the first shot. I said, “I know this is a very dangerous thing I’m saying here.” They were empowered under our rules of engagement. If someone pointed a weapon at them they could shoot them. I said, “Everywhere you go around here you’re going to be stopped at a roadblock and you’re going to have some kid with an AK47 and he’s going to put that weapon at your head.”
They did that all the time. Everywhere I went there I always had a pistol ready. It wasn’t in a holster, it was, and you’d tell him, “Put your weapon down.” They had infantry at the back who would come and force them to put it down. But legally I could have shot him. I said, “I’m not going to have you go around here shooting kids because one of these kids has poked a weapon at your head. They hate us and they’ve got every reason to hate us. So you’re going to have to go into a situation and if
someone is definitely about to shoot you, you can shoot them first, but by and large they’re going to have to fire the first shot and after that you make sure you fire the last one.” So these guys were well trained, our guys were not itching for a fight but were willing to do whatever they had to do to do their job. They made that very evident. They weren’t scared of stepping back. They were highly trained. The RPA could see that. So even though in a lot of cases we were grossly outnumbered and they were threatening to kill us and all sorts of things
the guys said, “You’re not. We’ve taken this person under protective custody and you’re not getting them back. End of story. Do what you have to do.” And they’d always step back in the end. Sometimes it might take several hours but they always stepped back because they knew that they weren’t going to win it. So it was a case of understand the laws, understand the rules of engagement, understand what it was you could and couldn’t do and what your discretion is within those rules and knowing
that the buck stops with somebody else, and it was always with me and they knew that. They knew if they acted strictly in accordance with what they’d been trained to do that would stop with me. They also knew that if they stepped outside those rules, they wouldn’t be waiting for the UN to come and investigate it, that I would be doing that and I would be the one prosecuting. So they knew, “He’ll protect me if I do the right thing, but he’ll prosecute me if I don’t.” So you’re not going to have any renegades out there doing something stupid trying to brush it over because they knew that I’d find out about it and I’d take them.
They also knew that if they did the right thing they wouldn’t be answering to anybody but me. So they had that confidence that they were well trained, knew exactly what they could do, knew exactly what I required them to do and they did it with confidence. The RPA could see that, and they could see that these guys are not kidding, they are willing to use force and they’re bloody well trained, and they always stepped back. So we were very lucky. There were some really close calls where there
could have been a lot of lives lost, but you make your own luck in those sort of situations.
Were you there during that Kibeho massacre time?
No, Kibeho happened the second rotation, but I was there during the first. Kibeho should never have happened. I’m bloody angry about the fact that it did. Just take you back a few months. The RPA had forcibly closed a lot of internally
displaced persons camps. Their way of closing them was to surround them and just shoot them up. We were pulled in on several occasions to go in and sift through all the bodies and see if anyone was alive and take them back and try and operate on them, so we knew what the RPA meant when they said they were going to forcibly close this camp. This is the sort of thing that was happening in an area where there was supposed to be a UN presence. They weren’t there. I got to a briefing one morning, I went every morning, and on this morning the chief operations officer goes
through a list of issues and he said, “And the RPA have advised that they are going to forcibly close all the internally displaced persons camps.” I thought, “This will be interesting to see what happens here.” Then he goes on to the next issue. I put my hand up and said, “Excuse me, Sir, are you trying to tell me that we’re not going to do anything about that?” “Can’t do anything, we’re Chapter Six. There’s nothing we can do.” I said, “I’m very sorry, but our mandate requires us to
protect the people under threat in this country and you know as well as I do that closing these camps means they’re going to kill them all. They’re going to forcibly close them, they’re going to shoot them up. We cannot do this.” So we’re having an argument, and the force commander said, “Look, can you two sort out your own differences after the briefing? We’ve got things to do.” This is what I was dealing with here. I said, “Sir, I’m not letting this rest.” He said, “OK, well, sort it out with him afterwards. Can we get on?” “Yup.” So afterwards I grab him and say, “I’m not doing
this. You cannot do this.” And we had a massive argument about it. I said, “It’s not a case of ‘can you do it’, it’s a case of ‘you are obliged to do it’. You have no bloody choice but to do it. These camps are going to be closed, and we’ve got to do it in a way that’s acceptable to the international community. Not for the RPA to do it. You’ve got to find a way to get that across to the RPA. You have 5,000 people here. You can use force to stop this from happening and we have got to do that if it comes to that.”
God, it took me two days. I had my legal officer over there convincing them legally they had no choice. Eventually I convinced them that not only could we, but we really should. So the next briefing I go to, the force commander gets up and says, “We can’t let the RPA force close the camps, and we thought about that now and that’s fairly evident. So I’m going to go with the SRSG [Special Representative to the Secretary General] to the government and tell them that we are not
going to let them close the camps.” So I said, “Excuse me, Sir. That’s not the answer. The camps have got to be closed.” He gets up and says, “For Christ’s sake. You were the one yesterday who bloody told us.” I said, “No, I’ve been through this with the operations officer, they have got to be closed but we can’t let the RPA close them in the way they’re going to. We’ve got to have some kind of a cooperative arrangement here between us and the government and the RPA to close these camps, get these people
back to their home communes, but not do it in the way the RPA intends to do it. That’s the issue here. It’s not an issue of should they be closed, yes, they should. And that is a government decision, not ours. It’s how it’s got to be done.” OK, so eventually, Op Retour was the operation that came out of this. It was a cooperative operation between the UN, the RPA, the government and the NGOs. The NGOs were compelled to be part of it. It required that they knew that
nobody from the displaced persons camps would leave while they were still being fed and watered and given medical support. So they knew they had to run down all those supplies before anybody would leave. There was a lot of interahamwe [civilian militia force], the bad guys in these camps who were putting a lot of pressure on people not to leave. They’d been going back to home communes and killing people in their beds at night to force them to come back to the camps because the numbers gave them protection. This is one of the reasons the RPA wanted to close them - so they could get to these people. They didn’t
care about these people in the camp. The RPA’s view was that anyone who was still in a refugee camp, or an internally displaced persons camp, was guilty of genocide. They didn’t care what happened. The interahamwe were stopping people from leaving the camps and killing them if they didn’t. So there was a real problem. These things had to be closed down and the NGOs had to be part of it, so we had to make sure that when we would close a camp that there was a program of delivery of food and water so it
ran out on a certain date. Then we had vehicles there to move them back to their home commune. Kibeho was about 125 to 150,000 people in it. It was a big city. So we get to close Kibeho. The NGOs had been told to deliver a certain amount of water and food so that it was all going to run out on this particular day.
They delivered about twice as much as they were told to deliver and they told the people that they were going to be shipped out of there and they were going to be killed once in their home communes because they were insecure. There was an element of truth in the fact that the communes weren’t secure. But there was no plan to kill them or anything like that. So these people had no intention of leaving. It was a massive logistics exercise to get all these vehicles out there to move 150,000 people back to different parts of the country. We were providing the medical screening
to make sure we were only taking people who were fit to travel. It took months in planning to get this thing to work. On the day we went to close Kibeho camp nobody was ready to move. No one was willing to move. They had more water than they needed, more food than they needed and the whole thing folded. The RPA then said, “We will close this camp and we’ll do it our way.” They did a few months later. The whole reason for that was that the
NGOs had been forced to cooperate with the operation or they would have been kicked out of the country, but then acted against the operation on the ground to protect the contracts they were on. The next time around the UN didn’t get involved at all. I was in the UK at the time and I saw all the situation reports coming in during the lead up to Kibeho, and it was very evident if you’d been there earlier on
as to what was happening. This was typical to what had occurred in the past, and they were going to forcibly close down those camps, and they did. We had on the ground a very small contingent of medical and infantry people who should never have been there. UN had two choices here. They did something to stop it, and they could have stopped it, or they got out of the way. But to have a very small contingent of UN men sitting in the middle of what was going to happen and try and pretend that they didn’t know it was going to happen was just unbelievable.
History now, it happened.
Sounds like there’s a lot of blood on people’s hands through incompetence and buck-passing.
You have a rotation in the UN every six months, so my force had left. We were there in the first Kibeho, when they were going to close it down, and we were the ones that prevented that from happening.
And we’d briefed the people who took over from us. The force commander and force ops officer were 12 month appointments so they were still there, so there were enough people still on that force who knew what had happened a few months earlier and all the reports are there, and if you couldn’t remember, just go over that. I just couldn’t believe when I was reading this from the reports I was receiving. It was evident to me what was going to happen. When I heard that we had a small element of Australians sitting in that camp I
couldn’t believe it. Granted, in the time during the second rotation the kinds of operations they were doing were different to what we’d been doing. The security situation was far better than it had been during our time. The RPA had stopped going around and forcibly closing down camps, so they hadn’t physically witnessed what happened when these camps were forcibly closed to the extent that we did. So I guess you could argue that
OK, they didn’t have that sort of day to day understanding of what all this meant, but I’ve got to tell you, the RPA left them in no doubt whatsoever after the first Kibeho that, “We’ll do it our way next time.” We knew what our way was. We just let them do it and we let there be a small element of the UN there to watch it. Those poor buggers are going to have to live with that for the rest of their lives. Terrible.
Interviewee: Patrick McIntosh Archive ID 2450 Tape 08
Tell us about UN and the operational plan again.
One of the issues that I found with working for the UN was that they don’t have an operational planning framework. The operation in Rwanda was based on the Arusha Accord that had been agreed the year before. They clearly failed,
at the point of the genocide that the Arusha Accord had clearly failed. The UN plan was still being based at the operational level on the constituent parts of that plan. The UN needs to have an operational planning process like having a mission or campaign plan where the Security Council decides what they want to achieve in the mission, they
issue a mandate for that to occur, and then the next step down is where you plan the mission and work out the various component parts of the mission. And you look at all the elements that need to be part of it, and it might be a protection force such as military, might be an election element, an administrative element, whatever else is needed for that particular operation. That plan needs to be done initially in New York, but it then needs to be handed over to the operational level headquarters, which
is the force headquarters. But the UN doesn’t do that, and it finds it difficult to do it, because the person who is the operational level commander has not been trained in conducting that kind of planning. The SRSG, the Special Representative of the Secretary General, is the operational-level commander. He’s the person who is responsible on the ground. The force commander is just responsible for the military component, whereas
the SRSG has some control overall of the other components. They need to analyse the mandate and work out what the campaign plan is, when the end state is that they’re trying to achieve and look at all the lines of activity that will lead to achieving that end state, all the components of the force, then look at the decisive points along each of those lines of
activity that need to be achieved. Then sequence the operation to achieve it. That’s just standard campaign planning. But there was no suggestion that that had been done in that operation in Rwanda, and I think in most other of the UN operations that we’ve been involved in, the other aspect was that the UN Force didn’t have a legal officer. You’re operating within a legal framework, mandates, and working out rules of engagement and that sort of thing. There was no legal officer
with any qualifications in that field as part of the force. Also, media is a critical element, and media was something that gave the previous government forces and the RPA a lot of leverage. In my view, the RPA allowed the UN Force to stay in Rwanda simply because of that international recognition that was being given by having the UN in the country.
They wanted that, but they wouldn’t allow the UN to do their job. So one of the areas where you can leverage off for that legitimacy is to use the international media. Not use them, but have access to the international media, to tell them what’s really happening within the country. It’s a way of controlling the more belligerent elements. But there was no media officer. They had a media officer assigned, but he wasn’t
a qualified media officer, he was just someone who was assigned to the task. So they weren’t able to use the media in a way that it should have been, in a way that they could pass the truth to the media as opposed to giving all these other views of what was happening around the place. Let the UN be the place they came to, to find out what was really happening. And to use the fact that the media had an interest in Rwanda to provide some control over the more extreme elements of some of the things
they were doing. The second Kibeho, the Kibeho massacre could have been avoided by use of the media. There is no doubt in my mind about that. But they didn’t have the mechanism to do it. They wouldn’t employ intelligence staff as part of the UN at that time so they had no real idea of what was going on, they had a view of what was going on, but it wasn’t an accurate view. At one point they were talking about the RGF [Rwandan Guerrilla Forces] forces who were about to attack in outer Zaire. Certainly from our understanding of the situation, on the ground that was never going to happen and never did happen.
But they certainly put a lot of fear into people around the world by expressing the view that that was about to happen, when it clearly wasn’t. But they didn’t have intelligence staff because they’ve got this UN view that intelligence is a bad thing. Intelligence is information, it’s not a bad thing. Call it information staff if you want, but they needed it. And psychological operations. The government in exile used the Radio Milles Collines [government radio station] which they took with them from the country
to spread propaganda. They told the refugees that they’d be killed if they came back into the country. They told the displaced persons that they would be killed. It was a radio culture. They spread propaganda about what the new government was doing and what the RPA was doing, which was all lies. They weren’t doing it, but they kept telling the people that they were. The new government and the RPA had no intention of countering that because they didn’t care if these people ever came back to Rwanda again. They didn’t care because they saw them as being guilty
of genocide. So you needed the UN to be out there countering that propaganda, so you needed a psychological operations staff with the capability such as a UN radio present in the country to make that work. But none of those things happened because no one had done enough planning at that operational level to work out that that is what was needed in an operation like that. It was very disappointing, and
I think the UN might have come a little way since then. Whether they’ve come far enough I’m not convinced yet.
Why didn’t the UN try to rectify the bad criticism they’d got in the initial wave of genocide so things like Kibeho didn’t happen?
They didn’t want to get involved in another Somalia. They didn’t want a mission creep. That was the reason they only allowed Rwanda to be a Chapter Six operation
but they gave them pretty much a Chapter Seven mandate. They didn’t want to get involved in another Somalia and they wanted to limit this operation. It’s hard to understand. After the embarrassment of leaving when the genocide occurred in the first instance and then putting a force that was twice the size of the original UN Force back on the ground with a fairly robust
mandate and then basically limit what people were able to do through the use of a Chapter Six mandate is quite unbelievable.
Tell us about the treatment of the local people and some of the choices you had to make.
We were forced into how we were going to treat the local people by logistic necessity. Anything we did outside the hospital, in the early days we used a lot of our own pharmaceutical gear, but after a while we had to rely on what we could get out of Pharmacie Sans Frontiers [Medicine Without Borders], which meant that we were starting
to limit ourselves to conducting primary healthcare. To have fairly advanced medically trained people just conducting primary healthcare wasn’t easy. We ended up going well beyond primary healthcare in a lot of areas. We were conducting amputations and other operations out in the field, but by and large you can only do what you’re logistically able to. If you couldn’t get the gear you had to treat
with the pharmaceutical items that were available to you. So there was a degree of frustration out in the field in that there were people with diseases that we had drugs for that we had to turn away because we couldn’t treat. We couldn’t use those drugs because we couldn’t replenish them, but even if you were to give them the drugs you weren’t going to be able to keep them on a treatment of those drugs for long enough to make a difference anyway. You were forced
to see if there was anybody who needed some basic care that would make a difference to their life and treat them, and those that were so far advanced with AIDS or tuberculosis or whatever else, they might have had just give them a disprin or an aspirin because they’d never leave without something. They’d go away, but knowing full well they were never going to survive. That took a while for our staff to get used to, the fact you’re operating in Africa here. There are people that you don’t see
that probably back in Australia your could have saved. In an ideal world you could have, but you’re not going to be able to here. So you’ve got to get out and treat those that you can. You’re still going to save a lot of lives, but not everybody. Back in the main hospital where we had the operating facilities there were NGOs working within the hospital who had more limited capabilities than us. So we had to work out who we would treat and
who would treat whom. So we only took on the more advanced cases unless we had a big surge of patients coming into the hospital and we’d just take our share of them. Anything that would just involve an amputation of an arm or a leg or something like that there were others who could handle that. That was their bread and butter. We let them do that. For the others we would conduct a triage outside the hospital to identify the patients that we could
save and those we couldn’t. If someone was so advanced that they couldn’t be saved, we didn’t try. We left them outside the hospital. Our resources were too limited for us to be trying to save someone who wasn’t saveable. When there was an enormous lot of patients you had to be a bit selective. If there was an old man there you were going to give priority to the kids and women or younger people than to older people. That went pretty much without saying.
We’d identify those that could be treated by the NGOs so they could go to the NGOs. The worst case ones would come to us. The doctors would then have to work out what kind of treatment they needed. If they needed an operation, how much time they would need in-ward care and how much time they might need in intensive care. Intensive care was critical for us because we couldn’t get a regular supply of gases.
They were organised by the UN and had to come in from Kenya. We were constantly running low on gases. Every time we conducted an operation we’d have to look at the post-operative care requirement against what we had in supply of gases, because I had to make sure I kept a reasonable reserve of gases in the event that we had a UN emergency at any time. We’d be taking on the worst cases, we’d do the triage outside, we’d look at
how much gas we had available, how much time they would need to spend in intensive care under gas, and it really came down to a probability. What’s the chances of saving this person’s life if you conduct the operations? How much time would that person need if you were able to save the life? And how much gas have we got to allow for this patient? Then it’d come down
to whether we did it or not on the basis of availability of gas and the probability of success. A decision was made - yes or no. If it was no, that person didn’t go into the hospital. Unfortunately that always meant that that person would die. But there was really nothing we could do about it. We had to be selective. There were so many patients, so many people lining up there to be treated, with such horrific wounds that we had to be selective. That wasn’t an
easy decision to make, particularly for the medical staff. It was made easier by a policy we had that anybody who was treated in the hospital will be treated exactly the same as anybody else in the hospital. So we didn’t have a special treatment for Africans and another one for the UN. So if they came into that hospital they got whatever treatment we could give them. The only difference was how much time we were able to keep them in the beds, and how much time we could keep them in intensive care.
One of the reasons for that was the UN placed a limit on how many people they could have in the hospital at any time because they weren’t supportive of providing this support anyway, that they put a limit on how many locals I could have in the hospital at any time. I’m not saying I stuck with that limit all the time, but certainly it came down to if someone was operated on who was going to need extensive post-operative care, we couldn’t do the operation because we didn’t have the facilities.
How was the choice made when there was a line-up?
It wasn’t so much a line-up, it was
mainly at this point people being shot in camps, it was people standing on mines so you’d have whole families being brought in, in various states of injury from mine injuries, things like that. The triage would be done outside where they’d go out and try and do what they could to help people on the spot, identify the most seriously injured ones,
as you do in all triage situations, and in this case it was a case of working out who’s going to do it. Can this go over to emergency medical NGOs? It was fairly evident the ones they wouldn’t be able to handle. If it came in after hours, we were the only ones doing it at that point so they’d all come to us. But then it was a case of working out who we would treat. If it was a mine injury we’d tend to try and do what we could
for all of them. If we got somebody who’s been injured but all of a sudden it’s evident that that person’s also got some other disease like AIDS, it was prevalent over there, and TB was prevalent, particularly for people who had AIDS, and it’s evident they’re not going to survive then we didn’t waste the resources and our people’s time by
bringing them into the hospital, so the doctors would go outside the hospital when they were given notice that they were out there and they’d do what they could to help them out there and identify the ones that were going to be brought in for treatment in our hospital and work out with our NGOs, the ones that would be taken by them. The others, basically there wasn’t anything that could be done for them. They would have to be taken away by their family. But unfortunately
that was just life in Africa. It’s not like over here.
That must have been hard, especially for people trained in medicine.
It was an incredibly difficult thing. I felt for them when we’re discussing whether we’re going to conduct the operation on somebody and basing it on what’s the probability of them surviving the operation, how much post-operative care they’re going to need, how much gas will they need, and we’d say,
“That’s how much we’ve got. Can we afford it? How long can we give them? Two days?” Sometimes it’d come to that. “OK, you can do the operation, but you’ve only got two days in intensive care. You come back after two days.” “How’s it going?” No response. Turn the gas off. In some cases they died when you turned the gas off and other persons miraculously came good. It wasn’t just being hard arsed, “I only gave them two days of gas.” we’d go, “Have we got any more gases since we seen them? Can we afford another day?” “No, we can’t.”
“I’m very sorry, but you’re going to have to turn that gas off.” That’s where I felt it was probably my job to do that and tell them to do it, so it wasn’t their decision to do it because it’s not a decision that someone who is medically trained will want to make. I guess that was one of the advantages of having someone on the show who wasn’t a doctor. I hadn’t made any oaths along those lines. But it was certainly not something that any of us relished doing, but it was
a necessity. As the operation went on through the months it became something that I got involved in less and less simply because the staff knew that we were overwhelmed with the people that needed to be treated in the country and there’s only so much that we could do. It just made sense to be selective about who you were going to treat.
Kids often particularly affect people too.
We had some kids
in the hospital where we’d breach the rules. I remember one lad who was found over in one of the other wards by one of our doctors just walking through the wards checking on people. He had a patch over his eye and he went up to him, it was a fairly grotty patch that had been there for some time, and pulled it off to see what the situation was. He’d had his eye shot out and he had this massive cavity in his head. It went right around his eye. They pulled him over
into the hospital. He was a good little lad, he wasn’t crying. This amazed us about these kids. They had no legs, they were rolling along on a board with a couple of wheels on it and smiling at you. This kid came over. I was present in the operation they did on him. They cleaned up the eye socket, cut out the rest of what was still in there. We kept him in there for about four months. I think he was
still there when the next rotation came. He went well past the three or four-day limit that we’d placed on people being treated. But he wasn’t consuming gases; he was just in a ward being treated by the nurses. So you do come across someone like that. We did everything we could to save the kids. That was one of the things that hurt the most, because we lost a lot, but we were only treating people that were really seriously injured. We lost a lot.
I remember one thing - the RPA had shot up an internally displaced persons camp and we were sent out there to find if anyone was still alive, so we had helicopters just flying patients back. We had three triage resuss [resuscitation] bases set up because there were so many coming in. It’s just amazing how they operate in those resuss bases. This is more surgery here. This is people with legs blown off, been shot, been bayoneted, all sorts of things.
They’re coming in and are going through a process of who the priority is going to be and what they needed to do, and preparations they needed as they’re moving them off from there into surgery. This girl, they thought she’d been bayoneted through the chest. There was so much going on they’d missed a bullet wound in the back. So she had been shot in the back and the exit wound was in the chest, but they’d missed the
entry wound and they felt that she’d been bayoneted. I was present when they did that operation and they were saying, “This is great. The bayonet’s missed every vital organ.” They’re going through and are searing things off saying, “They just missed this, they just missed that, this is wonderful.” They fixed her up, sewed her up and put her back into the ward and she died. They were just devastated. They could not work out why. Shouldn’t have happened. They still hadn’t worked out
that she’d been shot and not bayoneted. They asked me if they could do an autopsy. We usually didn’t do that sort of thing. You had a massive number of people coming through. You do what you can, some die, some leave and they move them out again. You don’t start doing autopsies on people to see why they died. In this case they were so devastated by it because this should not have happened. I said they could, so they did. They found that they’d missed it. They were really, really upset. I said,
“You were overwhelmed. There were so many patients coming in there, so many casualties with massive injuries. This entry wound, it was hardly even noticeable.” Also the autopsy found that the bullet didn’t strike a vital organ. So even if, OK, you missed the bullet wound, but it wasn’t the bullet that killed her. We don’t know why she died.” I would suggest it was something to do with trauma.
This kid’s probably seen some horrible things during the genocide and now she’s being shot at, seeing her family just slain in front of her. She probably gave us her days. Kids have a big impact on the staff. When you’ve got an older male there and it’s all very matter of fact, doing whatever you can to save him, “OK, next.” But when you’ve got a young mother, or kids, and you’ve got a mother with kids it makes a big difference.
I admit we did stretch the rules quite a bit when you have a mother who was in there and her family were saying, “She’s got three kids and her husband’s just been killed. There’s no one else to look after the kids.” You do whatever you can and you stretch the rules a bit to keep them a bit longer and run down the gases a bit more than you know you should have to look after them as best you could.
What about from your perspective - seeing teenagers? Cos you would have had teenagers then
I could certainly, I think as any father, I could relate to seeing these kids and knowing that they’ve got no parents left, that they’ve stood on a mine and their legs are gone and there’s no social security system. And just thinking, “What a horrible situation for these kids to go home to.” Just knowing what they’ve seen in their lives. You can’t
help but relate back to your own kids and think, “How would I feel if my kids had to go through this?” It’d just be so terrible. So you can then understand how the parents are feeling when they’ve lost everything, lost most their family, probably lost some of their kids, and they’re stuck there wondering how the hell they’re going to survive. There’s no system to look after them. I must admit it caused me to be a bit
harder. I was always reasonably hard on my kids anyway, but when I came back from that the kid problems that they’d come up with, “Sorry, they’re not problems.” Lana had to tell me quite often, “Hey, you’re not in bloody Africa, OK? Go easy on them.” It was hard for me when I first got back, probably for about six months, when the kids had problems, “That’s not a problem.”
But you’ve got to realise it’s a different world. But by the same token, don’t spoil them; toughen them up a bit, because I couldn’t believe how tough some of these kids were. Kids cried about some petty thing, and you’ve got someone with his eye shot out and is not even whimpering. They are tough.
People from Rwanda have said about the lack of screaming or noise.
Yeah, never heard it.
It’s amazing, the injuries they carried. When the war ended it was a couple of months before we got there. Some of these people have got fresh wounds, but many of them have wounds that they’ve been carrying through since the genocide, which happened in April. So you’re talking about three or four months. This eye injury, he was shot in April, here he was in August or September that we were operating. Granted, the thing had gone to eating away half his face, but he was still alive.
You just couldn’t credit that he was still alive, but he was, but not crying. You’d go into these resuss bays where people have had their legs blown off, half their backs blown off, babies blown off their backs, and just…I don’t know whether they were just hardened to it or whether they had just been through so much, or what I don’t know. You can imagine if it was here. There’d be so much screaming going on it
wouldn’t be funny. Very resilient people. Someone dies, they bury them hours later and then they’re back at work. One of the girls who we had working for us, her brother died and she went off to the funeral. I went down to have lunch and I saw her there and said, “I’m sorry to hear about your brother, but I thought you had taken the day off to bury him.” I’ve already done that.” So she had been there to do the stuff at breakfast and gone off and buried the brother and she was back there preparing
lunch. And to look at her you wouldn’t think it was, it was just any day. She wasn’t crying, it was just back to work. They had become accustomed to death. Whether they were accustomed to it before the genocide or not, I don’t know.
Did you have any issues of keeping up the morale of the medical workers and the soldiers?
Morale was a key issue. The use of the messes that I mentioned to you were a key component to them. I wouldn’t have a drink for the first month until absolutely every part of the operation was set up. I said if there was anything outstanding, there were no drinks. Then I allowed the messes to operate for alcohol
on a Friday and Saturday night, and it might have been Sunday, too, I think, but only if you weren’t working within eight hours, or if you were on call you weren’t allowed to drink either. So it wasn’t just open for anybody to go, but it was only open for a certain period of time, two or three hours on these particular days if you weren’t working within the next hours. It meant that you might get a drink once a week where you had an opportunity to go in and have a couple of beers.
About once a week was about on average about it. But it was an opportunity for people to get away from their workplace and get into a mess of similar rank. The senior NCOs could go into their mess and have a whinge about the officers, whatever they want to do in their mess. We’d get into ours and the soldiers could do the same. So that was a key part of it. I also rotated the force as best
I could. So we had elements deployed outside Kigali all the time. I had medical staff who were hospital trained and officers that were field trained. But if I didn’t rotate them I was going to find that the field people were living out in pretty adverse conditions out in the field all the time and the hospital people are going to be living back here. So I said, “You’re going to rotate. The hospital staff will do at least one tour out in the field.” They didn’t like that, but I didn’t care. So off they went.
Some of them took to it and loved it and others had the grunts for the whole time they were there. They got an experience that they mightn’t have got otherwise. Likewise, the people that were field trained were also hospital trained, but they didn’t like the hospital environment and they had to rotate and come back and work in the hospital. So I’d get a brief from the ones who didn’t want to do that. But it was a case of giving them some variety. I also tried to regulate their time as best I could. I couldn’t have the whole of the force
working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so we operated a shift system and tried to stick with it where we could. The ones that worked the hardest were the surgeons, but they were only there for six weeks at a time and then we flew in a new lot. Basically we burnt them out. Then we had the rest on a rotation, which is also one of the reasons that we limited the number of local patients that we’d being into our hospital. I could have had that hospital bulging at the seems
24 hours a day, seven days a week. I did not have enough staff there to operate that kind of hospital, so this the problem with limiting the number we could take. They had a limit of 300 before they even knew what the task was going to be. We were given a limit of 300 right from the outset. So we’ve got one theatre system and we’re operating a theatre 24 hours a day. We’ve got one intensive care unit and we’re operating intensive care 24 hours a day. We’ve got one radiographer. It was ridiculous. So one of the first things we had to do was
to take this massive training program in country to take other nurses and give men training under the intensive care nurse in how to be an intensive care nurse. Some of them had had some experience in that but it wasn’t their specialty. So we did have an ability to rotate people. We’d train others to be theatre nurses. That doesn’t happen overnight, so the poor people that are the sole ones doing the job are stuck there for the first few weeks or couple of months of the operation without
getting hardly any kind of a break at all. Then we’d gradually train up more staff so that we were able to give them time off. They’d have a weekend off every six weeks. We’d fly them out to Nairobi or somewhere to give them a weekend away. Halfway through the tour we got a week off and they could go back to wherever they wanted. They were the only breaks that we had. So we had to do the functions in the messes where we could trying to get
on with life as best we could and really try to give them as many opportunities for training and for rotation within the forces as we could. We did an enormous amount of training over there, so you don’t go on operations and just stop training. We trained all the infantry to be combat medics so that they could assist. We weren’t just out there providing protection, they could assist with the triage process and all the rest of it and not just be stretcher bearers that they could perform a role.
I had a lot of trouble getting permission from Australia to conduct that course. They wouldn’t give us the training management plan for me to do it. I had to force them to do it. So we did a lot of training, and we did a lot of educational stuff while we were there as well. I feel that it’s very important that people who are going to operate in a country understand the country, understand the culture, they understand the history of the conflict. It’s only really
through understanding all that that you’ve got a feel for what it is that you need to do to make a difference. Everyone of us that’s involved in those operations can do their own little bit to make a difference, but they’ve got to understand what the difference needs to be. So I got the deputy force commander in to talk about the genocide and the lead up to that and how it all happened so they got a good perspective on that. I got Tutsis in to talk about their history and culture, what they thought about Hutus. I got Hutus in to talk about their
culture and what they thought about Tutsis. So you started to get a feel for it wasn’t a tribal thing. It was, but the tribes had lived quite comfortably together and there was a whole bunch of reasons why this conflict had occurred. It was not what most people think. And they were taught cultural issues from the local people. And we got the NGOs in and we got them to talk to us about their charters and why they do what they do and why they’re so limited in how they can deal with us,
just to understand where they’re coming from and the certain protocol that they’ve got that prevents them from dealing with us. We need to understand that. I did that training every week the whole time I was there. Didn’t matter how busy it was, it never stopped. It happened every week. I did a program for it and I wouldn’t let anything stop that from occurring. And they were secure in that I put security arrangements in that no one else in the UN had and I wouldn’t allow it to be breached.
Nobody could go outside Kigali unless there was an infantry protection vehicle with them. That meant a limit of tasks to the number of infantry I had to support them. Nobody could travel around Kigali unless there were two people in the vehicle, both armed, and that was never breached. They weren’t allowed, this wasn’t a good morale thing, but I would not allow them to get out of uniform. The UN uniform is to protect you, not from a bullet, but it
gives you legal protection. You’re out of uniform the UN protection doesn’t apply. Also, as Kigali came back to life again, bars started to open and all the rest of it and it was a very dangerous place. A lot of the UN Forces, they weren’t doing anything during the day but they were going out on the grog by night. The NGOs were all out partying at night and going out to hotels and things like that. The UN Headquarters was basically an eight-to-five operation. At night time they were on the grog. I just wasn’t going to allow that to occur,
so they weren’t allowed to go to any of those functions. They weren’t allowed to drink anywhere other than in their messes on the specified times that I allowed that to happen. I allowed no fraternisation. That would have caused a massive morale issue if I had allowed that. It would have caused massive problems with families afterwards if I had allowed it. So I just had some really strict rules on the no fraternisation.
There was variety there. They knew where they stood, they knew what they were there to do, they didn’t have any concern about what they could and couldn’t do in a situation when it occurred. So they were going to have variety in what they were doing. They could look forward to a break out of Rwanda, they could look forward to a drink at the end of the week. They had a place they could go to, to have quiet time if they needed to. We had a Red Cross lady who was excellent, who they could go and talk to if they wanted to have a chat about things.
We had a padre who was very good. He’d just go and talk to people. So they had people that they could go to. I think it’s about the best you can do in a situation like that. And you keep them busy. I think that’s always one way of, people start to have problems when they’ve got time on their hands to think about the things they’re doing.
Were you dealing directly with any psychological
issues in your capacity?
No, not really. I wanted to have a psych in the staff but I was overridden in that. I didn’t have any say in the medical element that deployed. I had a say in logistics and infantry and headquarters, but it was made very clear to me that I wasn’t medical and that, “We’ll tell you what you need from a medical side.” I said, “OK, I need a psych to come.” They said, “No.” There was rivalry between the psych corps and
the medical corps and the medics would not allow a psych to come. Even after the first rotation when that decision was clearly proven to be stupid they still didn’t deploy a psych on the second rotation. They sent a couple of psychs in two weeks before we deployed back to Australia. They came in and said, “We’re going to be doing group debriefs.” I said, “OK, that’s a total waste of time, but you go and do that anyway. Here’s a list of people that I want you to do individual
debriefs on, because they have a problem. Not all of them are problems that have occurred in Rwanda. A lot of these people have problems that they had when they came here.” If we’d got more time to select them for this mission, we wouldn’t have brought them. But we didn’t. I certainly could identify, through my subordinate staff, people that were having problems even while we were there. I’m certainly aware that there’s been a significant number since we’ve come back.
Interviewee: Patrick McIntosh Archive ID 2450 Tape 09
We’ll pick up on the RPA?
OK. When we arrived in country the RPA were effectively running the country and Paul Kagame was in charge of the Rwandan Patriotic Army. He became the vice president, but he was the figurehead in charge of the government, but they deliberately put a Hutu in as president and the prime minister and Paul
Kagame was the deputy prime minister. The reason they did that was very sensible. They wanted to be seen to be following the Arusha Accord, which was going to have a broad based government of that community. But because the RPA had won the war, had fought in and had seen their families that were left in the country killed in this genocide and had seen the UN do nothing about it, they had no respect whatsoever for the UN.
But Rwanda had agreed to allow the UN Force to come back into Rwanda to provide support. The RPA’s view was, “You didn’t do anything to stop the genocide so you’re not going to get in our way now and stop us from doing what has to be done within the country.” The RPA soldiers were very disciplined. There was very little retaliation against the local population, which I might have expected in a
situation like that. So I quite respected that they were disciplined enough to be able to hold it together, and Paul Kagame did hold it together. He was under enormous pressure. The RPA were not being paid and they’d lost the bulk of their families and in some cases all their families. But he had a longer-term view of stability within the country and having this military coup-type situation
would certainly not achieve that. But the problem was the RPA did not respect the UN and they did not want the UN going to any parts of the country and checking on what was happening, or even being in anything that was happening. So they set up roadblocks all over the place. There were three roadblocks when we first got there between our accommodation and the hospital, which was about 300 meters away. It was all done to
make life difficult of the UN, to stop us from going to perform tasks. Every time you go to a roadblock they told you to stop and they said, “You can’t come through.” But they had no legal power to stop us from coming through, but they would attempt to stop us. So my approach from the outset was that, “We’ll be totally impartial.” We understood what the status of force agreements were, where we could go, what they were in power to do and what they were not in power to do. We knew that we had
the right to go to any place in Rwanda that we wanted other than into their barracks. We made the determination from the outset that we’re not going to be prevented from doing our job. So I laid down the rules that, “You’re given a mission, you will perform that mission.” You would always stop at the RPA roadblocks even though they were illegal and you would negotiate your way through.
You’ll be quite forthright in that. Depending on how much time you had, you would either do that very quickly or you could take your time. If we were on a call out, and we provided the ready reaction force for Kigali for a few months, and we’d be called out in the middle of the night because someone had been killed and they’d call us out to go there. I gave them one minute to stop at the roadblock. I said, “Tell them that you’re on a call out and you’re going through there in one minute’s time. If they don’t move their roadblock in one minute you drive over it, around it or whatever you’ve got to do,
but you go and do the job.” And they were doing that. We had a lot of problems as a result of this. You could go to the hospital by two routes. You could go direct through these roadblocks, or you could go a very long way around the block, and I wouldn’t let our people go around the block. We’re here, the hospital’s there, they’ve put the roadblocks in there to annoy us, they’ve got no right to do it and we’re going to pass through them. We’ll keep on doing it until it annoys them so much
that they pull the roadblocks out. And they eventually did. So we went over the top of some roadblocks, we went around them, we negotiated our way through, but by in large we did exactly what we were tasked to do. The RPA tried to break into our hospital. We had an RPA sergeant dropped on our doorstep who had been shot. We treated the person, he was not going to survive, but the RPA demanded to have him back. They sent an armed force
to get him back and my people stopped them from coming into the hospital. They were willing to use whatever force was necessary to stop them because they were not in power to come into that hospital. I allowed them to bring doctors and nurses into the hospital to see how we were treating the person. They eventually agreed to do that. The soldier eventually died, but that could have been potential issues, but it wasn’t because it was managed fairly well. So we had a number of occasions when the soldiers were out doing a task and somebody
was being threatened and our soldiers would stop, place that person under protective custody and tell the RPA to leave. They wouldn’t, so they confronted us. On one occasion we had a whole company of RPA up against one section of my soldiers. That’s about 80 to 100 of them to about nine of mine. The guys stood their ground and were ready to use whatever force was needed to protect the person they took under custody.
The RPA kept on getting more and more furious about it. They didn’t take us on because they could see that they were probably not necessarily going to win. We had situations when we were on call out where the RPA, when we’d gone through roadblocks, had called out a significantly larger force than ours that’d hold our people up for several hours. We tried to get the UN to negotiate their release and in the end the platoon commander negotiated his own release
and got out. At the same time I had already deployed the rest of my infantry force to just this side of the nearest roadblock in the event that if it did turn into a fight that I could have linked up with them very quickly to assist them. But the platoon commander was talking on the radio about what he was doing. He had everything covered. He had people out of the vehicles into the shadows, they had night vision gear, these guys didn’t. They would have taken these people down and they wouldn’t even see them. They were very calm about it.
He said, “Yeah, we were outnumbered, but this is what we’ve done about it. Can you do something to help us here?” We did manage to get them out of these situations, but we were the only ones doing this. No one else in the UN Force was. As this went on over a six-month period the UN was clearly getting more and more upset with us. In the end they tried to bring it to a head. There were two incidents that occurred in the last week.
One was an RPA vehicle parked in an ambulance parking spot just outside the hospital. The ambulance came back and he asked the guy to move his vehicle and he said, “I can’t. It’s broken down. Would you be able to give me a push?” So he said, “Yeah, I can do that.” So he pushed him with the ambulance vehicle to give him a push. As soon as he hit the vehicle the RPA descended on him and claimed that he had deliberately rammed this vehicle and they wanted to arrest him. They had no power to arrest.
So our infantry came out to protect him and they were threatening all sorts of things. So I got word on the radio that there was an incident at the hospital and they said this ambulance vehicle had rammed into an RPA vehicle and it’s a really heated situation. I said, “RSM, go and arrest the soldier that did that.” He said, “Sir, we haven’t worked out what he did yet.” I said, “Arrest him. Now. I don’t know what’s going on, but just arrest him.” So we arrested him and put him in gaol. The gendarme came down to see me and said,
“We want to arrest that soldier.” I said, “You can’t, he’s already arrested. Go and have a look if you want.” They said, “No, we want to arrest him.” I said, “You can’t. You’ve got no power to arrest. I’ve got the power to arrest and I’ve already arrested him. So the outcome you want is to have him arrested and we’ve already arrested him. So, bye, it’s already fixed.” So off they went. I let him out. Next day, same thing outside the main barracks. One of
our drivers was going up to the hospital, female driver, two people in the vehicle, and there was an RPA vehicle parked on that side of the gate. I had an NCO on the gate watching. Soon as this vehicle nudged out this person reversed up and rammed straight into the vehicle and then claimed that he was driving past and that the vehicle deliberately rammed him. Same thing. RPA descended on us and this went on for a day. There was probably a couple of hundred of them all fully armed on one side of the road.
I closed down the hospital, got all the locals out, refused to treat any more. Told the military people up there to protect themselves. They blocked off all the exits out of our accommodation, but I had armoured vehicles ready to come and they could have got out of there any time they wanted to. The UN came on the scene to try and negotiate our way out of this. They demanded that I release the female driver into the custody of the RPA.
I said, “That’s not going to happen.” They said, “We’re telling you to do it.” I said, “I’m telling you it’s never going to happen.” They said, “If it doesn’t happen there’s going to be a fire fight here.” I said, “It’s your job to prevent that from happening. I’ve got to tell you, if they take her there’s going to be a fire fight. So that’s not going to happen. You just negotiate your way through this one. I’m not negotiating on this. She’s not going to be released into anyone’s custody because we know what happened. I had an NCO sitting on the
gate who saw exactly what happened. I was on the scene within a couple of minutes of it happening and this was a set-up and that’s all there was to it.” The bottom line was that they wanted to take us on, but they were never going to pull the trigger. They had a heap of them lined up on one side of the road. I had people in different defensive positions all around the place. I had a heap of UN people and myself standing in the middle of the road between the two
having arguments about what was going to happen from here. I eventually agreed, and my legal officer suggested this, he said, “Why don’t you let the prosecutor interview her.” Because we knew the prosecutor, we did a lot of work with him and he wasn’t part of the RPA. I said, “OK, that’s fair. I’ll allow her to be taken to the prosecutor’s office under our custody, to be held under our custody while she’s being interviewed and then delivered back
here. That’s as good as it gets.” Eventually the UN were able to do something with that. So I sent a platoon down there to take her down in armoured vehicles to stay with her while she was interviewed and bring her back. Under no circumstances were they to allow anybody to take her into custody. They were empowered to use whatever force they had to, to protect her and get her back. I had the rest of the force ready to link up with them if needed. They got down there and typical
African compromise they decided to confiscate the vehicle, which I objected to. The UN overrode me on that and said, “It’s now a UN vehicle because we take over all the equipment that comes into the country. It’s now our vehicle and you don’t have a say in it, so we’re letting them have the vehicle.” “OK, your vehicle, do what you want with it.” She got back. So we were then confined to barracks while they worked out how they were going to get us out of the country. Paul Kagame wrote to the UN
and complained about me and about us from the perspective that he got from his own people. I was tasked to reply to his objection. I did, and I pointed out exactly what we’d done whilst we’d been there, what we’d done for them, what we’d done re-establishing the health system, how many we had treated. I outlined all the incidents that had occurred with the RPA and why they had occurred and what had occurred on this particular incident.
The fact that the state of affairs agreement allowed us to do that and everything I did was purely legal and in accordance with the mandate. It was clearly evident that this whole thing was stage managed to have a confrontation with us before we left the country. He must have then got the second side of the story and must have believed it. We were allowed to leave. We had no trouble at all in leaving. Every other contingent that left the country was given a
really hard time by the RPA in trying to get out. They delayed them, they searched all their gear and just it was a terrible process to try and get out of the country. Because of our situation with the RPA we were really expecting a bad time to leave. We had no trouble at all. They hardly did any inspection of our gear at all, we went out to the airport and walked straight out. Paul Kagame was quite objective about the whole thing in the end. He had obviously been
given one side of the story from his people and then when he saw the other side, the reply to it, he put two and two together and realised that perhaps the RPA had overstepped the mark. It was a build-up over six months of not deliberate confrontation, but they had deliberately tried to prevent us from doing our job and as they did any other element of the UN Force.
The only difference was that we did our job and at no point were we ever going to not do it. Nobody else did that. We had delegations from the RPA coming to us and saying, “What is wrong with you Australians? Why can’t you just do as you are told like everybody else?” I said, “We are doing what we’re told. We are tasked by the UN, we have a task to do and we’re going to do it.” So I think it was probably a degree of respect that they had for us
was the reason that we never got into a fight. But at the same time there was a degree of frustration that they were able to control the movements of the rest of the UN and they weren’t able to control us. It ended up in what could have been a very significant conflict. We were just lucky that it didn’t end up that way. The middle of Africa is not a good place to be when you’re relying on the
UN. This is a UN Force that had done nothing in the six months that I had been there to protect anybody. If you’re going to rely on the UN Force to come in and protect us against the RPA, I don’t think I’d rest too comfortably with that.
Was there a transitional period with the next contingent when you were leaving?
Yeah, the next contingent’s advance party came in about a week before, and they had key elements from each of the
force elements and they did a fairly comprehensive handover. They were present when this incident happened with the RPA, so they were looking at things and thinking, “Oh my God.” They were working their own views of who was right and who was wrong, and I think their view was that the RPA were in the right and we were in the wrong. But it was up to them to gauge that. They came in, they did a very comprehensive handover with our people,
and when the main body arrived we went out on the same aircraft as they came in on. So they would come in, I think it was late at night. They went into the accommodation, our people were just in tents, and the next day we went out. So their advance element had taken over all the different areas and the rest of the soldiers had arrived. It was quite a slick little process for us to be able to do that in 24
hours. It worked well. I don’t think it was any hassle or hiccup with them taking over. It was just kicking off with what we were doing.
What was your daily routine, personally, in Rwanda from getting up to going to bed?
I’d get up quite early in the morning. I had to go over to force headquarters for a briefing, which would have been about 7:30, I think. So I’d go up to the headquarters, I’d get a briefing from the hospital and just check with the duty staff and get a briefing from them to find out what had happened during the night, because I’d have to give a briefing at the morning conference at force headquarters on everything that had happened
in the last 24 hours. So I’d sort out that. We’d already done what was happening the day before and they’d just steam off what happened during the night. I’d grab breakfast and then go over to force headquarters for prayers as they called it. That could take anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half every day. Then I would go and visit the force medical officer, who was a senior Australian.
Usually I’d see if he had any Australian-type issues or medical issues that we needed to discuss, then I’d go back to the barracks. I would try and get up to the hospital every day and just get around the wards and have a look at how many people we had in there. Sometimes I’d do ward rounds with the doctors just to get a feel for what they were doing. It was really a case of making sure that you were involved in whatever they were all doing. They all like
to see the boss knowing what they’re doing and coming in. So I’d tend to do that every day where I could. So I’d get around the wards, visit the intensive care staff and visit the OC [Officer in Command] and the hospital and check on things like how we’re going with gases, and, “How’s the guy in intensive care going? Can we afford to keep him going much longer?” All that sort of thing. Quite often I’d go into the theatre. I didn’t do that initially, but my RSM, who was medical corps, said, “Sir, you’ve
got to go into the theatre. You visit everybody else, but you don’t visit the surgeons.” “I’m not really all that keen. I don’t want to faint in there. It’ll be embarrassing.” He said, “You’re not going to faint, trust me.” So I’d go in there, get all gloved up. The first time I went in I found that it was more clinical, I was safe I wasn’t going to faint. So I used to do that a fair bit. They were great. They loved it. They’d be getting me over there and would be showing me what they were doing,
and visit the infantry soldiers. It was basically about going around and seeing how everyone was going. I’d spend a fair bit of time out of Kigali, down to visit the outstations we had. There was always a lot of paperwork I had to do. I had to maintain the diary, so I had to document everything we were doing and why. We had ongoing operations going all the time that we had to plan for, so there’d be planning conferences going on with the operations staff. The media
officer, there was a lot of media attention over there. So every day there’d be someone who wanted interviews, so the media staff would be there saying, “Sir, you’ve got to ring this radio station at this time.” So there was always that in between. You’d keep in touch with other UN elements around the place just to see what they were involved in at any time. It really was
very busy. You just don’t know where the day went. I would never get to bed before probably one o’clock, two o’clock in the morning. I was existing of very few hours’ sleep. The hospital was running throughout the night and I had the radio there, and if I found that we had a bunch of casualties coming into the hospital in the middle of the night I’d get out of bed, go and grab the RSM and we’d go up just to be there so they could see they weren’t the only ones that were out of bed. Not that we could do anything to help, but
it was just a case of they feel a bit better knowing the boss is up. It’s all right. At least he’s not sleeping. Quite often at night the RPA fired shots around our barracks every night. They fired machineguns right on top of us. It was deliberately designed just to harass us. They did that all the time. You’d be in bed and there’d be a machine-gun going off right beside us.
Hit the floor, get the infantry out, get the lights on, go and do a clearance around the perimeter, come back in and they’d do it again. So it wasn’t easy to get sleep necessarily if they didn’t want you to have too much sleep. So it was very full. There was always a lot of planning that had to be done. Just these fights about how the hell are we going to get around the issue of gases with pharmacy and
talking to our staff in Nairobi that are trying to sort that stuff out for us. There was so much that had to be done.
How did you relax and keep up your own morale?
I was pretty lucky. I had my own office. So I could get away from it all by just being in there writing and whatever else I had to do. I’d do the same
as everybody else did. You just take the opportunities for some social engagement where you can. I got to go over to force headquarters every day so I could see a bunch of people. They were all nice people. I’d have a chat with them. You’d go off and visit the NGOs that were doing a lot of work with us and have a chat with them, have a cup of coffee. So every time you just needed to get away there was always somewhere to go. So I probably had more opportunity, in fact I did have more opportunities to get
away than anybody else did. Just because I was involved in going to the headquarters every day to physically working with NGOs in terms of sorting out setting up this health system. We got involved in advising the NGOs on what needed to happen in the event of a crisis occurring. It was fairly evident at one point that it would probably happen.
Just advising, because we were providing the quick reaction force around Kigali. So somebody needed to provide them with some advice on security and what they needed to do to secure themselves. My staff would be out doing that sort of thing all the time. We’d find most days that there’d be someone that we’d have to visit. A lot of people were coming into Rwanda. There was a visiting archbishop that was coming in to investigate the role of the church in the massacre. He dropped in to see me.
The head judge who was heading up the international tribunal that was investigating the war crimes, we did a lot of work for them. The legal officer did a lot for them. We provided security for them as they were going around the place. He’d drop in to have a chat about how things were going. There was always a lot of media around. So I never really, it wasn’t an issue of maintaining my morale because it was so full on the whole time,
it was really an issue of trying to make sure I got enough sleep and didn’t lose my energy. I didn’t get off to Nairobi too often. The six-week stints and all that sort of thing was great, but I think I got away once, but that was it.
Often you weren’t getting enough sleep. What kind of effect did that have on you?
I didn’t need a lot of sleep. I need a bit more sleep now, but not back then. If I found that I needed some sleep during the day I could always take myself off, so it wasn’t as though you were working an eight to five role, you were working 24 hours a day. If I didn’t get much sleep one night because of what was happening I’d have a nap during the day. I could regulate it. If I became too tired to do my job there was only one person to blame for that. That would have been me.
There were occasions where I was really dog tired, that I would have to force myself to go and have a sleep. The RSM would be there to do that as well. He’d say, “Sir, you need to sleep. You’re getting a bit niggly. Go and have a rest.” On operations you’ve got to control that. It’s a dangerous situation and you can’t take the view that, “I’ve got to be there. Everyone’s
critically relying on me.” They weren’t critically relying on me at all. I laid down the rules in the beginning. As the boss I was actually involved in determining what we would and wouldn’t do and certainly tasking people to do things, but from that point on I leave my staff to run the show. I just get around and look at what they’re doing. So you’re there basically to be part of it and to observe them and to be there
to answer any questions they might have, to cop suggestions on how things can be better if someone’s got a better idea. I had a very competent staff over there who were quite willing and able to run that operation without me even being there. If I got too tired to be at my job then it would have been my fault, nobody else’s.
What about your communication with home?
We had a satellite communication system over there.
We logged in on the Rwandan international code, which caused us grief later on when the government got established and they wanted to re-establish their phone network and they were told they couldn’t because someone else was using it. They asked who, they said, “The Australians.” So they weren’t happy. So we had very good communications. We could communicate, I had a phone on my desk and I’d just pick the thing up and dial home if I wanted to.
I didn’t very much because I wasn’t really allowed to do that. But I could dial any number in the world from my desk.
How did you find that for yourself?
The biggest problem I had with that was because it cost so much money for us to ring out, that was the only issue Australia had when it was paying for it, when the media wanted to talk to me and they said, “Can you ring us at this time?” We’d say, “No. You want to talk to us you
ring us. Here’s our number.” They were meant to ring the media officer down in his office, which was right down the end of the headquarters and I’d go down there to talk to them. I said, “Bugger this. Give them my number.” He said, “Sir, if I give them your number, they’ll be ringing all the time.” I said, “I’m sure they won’t be.” Yeah. You’d be sitting there. Phone, “This is 4BH [radio station], you’re online. What’s happening?” So you’d be sitting there,
it was a double-edged sword. People could ring you every time they wanted and you had the ability to ring out, not that I needed to do that much. But people could also ring you any time they liked. It was usually the media that did that. Once the got your number they called you. Every time they had a spare moment they’d think, “I wander what’s happening in Africa. I’ll give McIntosh a ring.” So they’d call me.
How was your relationship with the media?
It was good. I had a very good media officer
who was very pleased that I took very much an open approach with the media and I was more than happy to do interviews with anybody at any time. I had a policy of telling it as it was, which got me into a bit of trouble with the UN, so after I’d done a few interviews where I revealed certain things, I was told I was not allowed to talk about UN operations anymore, I was only allowed to talk on Australian issues.
So that limited from that point on things that I was allowed to talk about. But it was a good relationship. It was a good news story, so there wasn’t any, no one had a hidden agenda. They weren’t trying to catch you out, they weren’t trying to trick you up in any interview. It was a good news story. Here we were over in Africa, helping these poor people and we’re providing medical support, saving
thousands and thousands of lives. We’re setting up a health system for them. So there was nothing but good news in that. That was the approach we took and this was wonderful. “What are you guys doing? What have they done this week?” It was an easy interview to run and we’d tell them what we were doing. It was a great way for the families back home getting the feel for what we were doing. All of a sudden they’re listening to the radio. And
I insisted it not just be me, I’m happy to take interviews, and if there’s an issue that they want to talk to me about I’ll do the interview, but I don’t want to be the sole voice of the force. I would like them to come and talk to any of the soldiers, and they did that. The media officer I had was excellent. He went on all these stations and said, “There are soldiers here from Adelaide. Why don’t you, I’ll arrange a time for you
to talk to them.” So he put the local dimension into it, they didn’t just talk to me. So they might start off with me saying, “How’s it all going over there?” “Good, good.” “Now, I believe you’ve got such and such.” and you’d hand over to the soldiers and they had a chance to talk to someone from the local community. There was a lot of that going on. It was great. The soldiers loved doing it. Some didn’t like doing it, but others loved it. It was really good. Enormous amount of PR [Public Relations] came out
of that operation. Both for Australia and the UN. The health minister, who was very anti-UN, but every time he was interviewed, because he was highly critical of what the UN were doing, for good reasons, and he’d always talk about what a wonderful job the Australians were doing. So he was critical of the UN, but he said, “But on the other hand, the Australians.” He was very supportive of what we were doing. And the
UN could pick up on this and take credit, as they should, I’ve got no drama with that. The only time it annoyed me was when they wouldn’t pay. They wouldn’t pay for what we were doing yet they’d be quite happy to take the accolades for the job that the medical people were doing, which was a great job.
You had three children all around about 10.
How was it maintaining that father role?
I didn’t ring home that often. I really should have. I’m quite neglectful in that. But then my wife knew that. She knew that when I went away I’d tend to just go away and she’d write to me and I’d write back occasionally because I was busy, and I’d ring occasionally. When I rang I’d always talk to the kids and they’d write to me and sent tapes over and things like that.
I managed to maintain contact, but not as much as I could have. I’ll admit that.
What about issues of discipline?
Lana protected me from all that. When I was over there I was posted to the UK at the end of that posting, so after I finished in Rwanda I came back to Australia and a week later I was in the UK as
an instructor at the British Army Staff College, so she had to keep the family up in Townsville until they finished school in November and then take them to the UK and settle them into Canterbury, waiting for me to finish in March to meet them over there to meet them over there. It’s very demanding, the things that we ask our families to do. So not only are they coping at home by themselves, but also they’ve got to move us to the UK. Sell the car,
move the family, pack up the house, move it over to the UK, settle into the new accommodation over there and wait for Dad to turn up three months later in a new location.
How was arriving back in Australia?
Arriving back was quite interesting. We got in very late at night in Townsville. It took a fair while for us
to get through customs and all the rest of it. Quarantine issues and things like that. There was a parade the next morning that was due to be held for us. Myself and Colonel Ramsey, who was the force medical officer, the media were there and wanted to do an interview with us. Everyone was there. Chief of Army, all the brigade commanders and everyone else was there to see us arrive home. Politicians and whatever, even though it was about three o’clock in the morning.
They were all there when we went in to the Qantas Club [Qantas Airways] to do the radio interview and when we came out from the media interview the only one that was left was the RSM who was there with a few soldiers putting the last lot of gear onto an army truck for it to be sent back to Lavarack Barracks. Everyone else had gone. I think they hadn’t realised we had gone into the Qantas Club and they saw all the
rest of the soldiers had left. So the Chief of Army left and everybody else followed. So we came out and said, “RSM, they’ve all gone?” “Yes.” He said, “Do you two know where you’ve been accommodated tonight?” “Wouldn’t have a clue. You?” “I’m sorted out.” So we had no idea where we were staying that night. We had no gear with us. So back to Lavarack Barracks. So we go to my old battalion mess and we’re in the TV room sitting there thinking, “Wouldn’t mind a shower.”
No towel, no nothing, we’ve got a parade to go to in about three hours’ time. The only way we got back was by taxi. It was just lucky that I happened to have some Australian money in my wallet. I said, “I think we’ve got about 10 bucks. Will that get us to Lavarack Barracks?” So we called a cab and got back to Lavarack Barracks by cab and Ramsey and I sat in the TV room. I went and knocked on the door and woke up one of the sub lieutenants and said, “Have you got a clean towel that I can
borrow because I need a shower?” “Yeah.” So all the VIPs had had a good sleep in their rooms and got up the next morning for the parade. We went to the parade and we were dragged off to do some more media interviews and then the force disbanded. We had a lunch and the force disbanded after that. That was basically it. I went off to Canberra to be debriefed down there. Then basically jumped on a plane and went to England to link up with the family.
Tell me about the debriefing.
We went and saw the Chief of Defence Force. He wanted to just say, “Thank you very much, well done.” all that sort of thing. It was just really a debriefing by the operations staff. They were getting daily reports from us anyway, so there wasn’t a hell of a lot that they really needed to find out from us. So this was just to see if there was anything else that they needed to know before I headed off to the UK.
That was a very, very minor part of it. I was also due to have a promotion and selection committee meeting for promotion to colonel.
Interviewee: Patrick McIntosh Archive ID 2450 Tape 10
When was it decided you were going to the UK?
That was just before I was posted to do the job in Rwanda, so they both happened at about the same time. I knew I was commanding the force in Rwanda if we sent it, but soon after it was announced that we were sending it and that I was the commanding officer of it, it was about that time that the posting orders for the next year came out. It was then confirmed that
I was going to be the exchange instructor and the Canterbury Commanding Staff College in the UK. So I said to Lana, “I’ve got good and bad news. The good news is you’re going to go home for a couple of years.” because she’s English, and she was very happy with that, “The bad news is I’m going to go to Africa for six months in between.” So she had some good things to think about while she was there. It really broke it down a bit because
it was really three months that she was in Townsville just with the family and then they went to England and she’s got all her family over in England, so she was able to spend a lot of time with her family. So that made that six-month separation a hell of a lot easier for them.
How was the week coming back and settling into family life?
The week back in Australia I was just doing briefings and went straight to the UK after that, then we had to settle into the new house. It was really frantic moving into a house, sorting out the kids and the schools and all that sort of thing. Over in the UK they gave me about three days to do that before I was teaching the next week. So it was really, really…
I didn’t have time to scratch myself. I have to move back to Australia, over to England, move into a house, sort out all the administration of moving into a house. The house hadn’t been lived in for three months so it wasn’t all that clean. Just about getting all that stuff done in time to start work in a new job. I taught five terms on the trot over there. Settling back into the family
was reasonably easy but I was pretty traumatised by the end of a few months, because I’d come from a really busy three year period in the Directorate of Infantry, was pulled out to there before I had leave because my battalion was back online again and they said, “You’ve got to me here.” so I had to go up early. We ended up staying online for the whole time I was in command of the battalion in stead of 12 months on and 12 months off.
It went online the day I arrived in Townsville and went offline the day I was appointed to command the force to go to Timor. Then went over there for six months without a break. The week I had off in the middle of the, that everyone else had off I went and did the handover with Camberley, the guy I was taking over from. Then got back to England and they said, “Sorry, you’re teaching.” I taught five terms running when everyone else usually
to one term on, one term preparation, one term on and one off. I ended up doing five terms in a row. By about that time I was getting rather frayed. I was getting rather short tempered. It was all right. They then gave me a couple of terms off, which allowed me to regain equilibrium.
What happened next?
I was then posted as the commandant of the Land Warfare Centre, which is our biggest army training establishment down here at Canungra in the hinterland of the Gold Coast. That’s where we do all our officer and NCO training. Management training, leadership training, tactics, that sort of thing. I’d been there before when I designed the junior staff course in 1980. To come back as a commandant was something that was a job I wanted to do. It’s probably the best job for a
colonel in our army, and because of my training background and my specialisation in training and training development and all that sort of thing, it really did suit me down to the ground to go to that job. So I did that for two years. A lot of changes to be made in the training world that had frustrated me for many years. I now had an opportunity to do something about it.
Did the experience
from Rwanda help with that?
It did. The issues I had was in the NCO training, having spent most my life commanding it frustrated me that the length of the courses that we send our non commissioned officers on, and the course is getting longer the higher they get in rank. So you’d think that the courses would be longer at the front end when you’re teaching them all the leadership and management skills
and everything else. As they get more senior in rank the courses would be building on what they already knew, and because of all the experience that they got, the form of training part of it should be less. That wasn’t the case. The courses were long at the front end and even longer for courses at the tail end. We changed that and rationalised the whole system. I had an excellent chief instructor in charge of that wing who had a real grip on that
and fixed that up. It saved the army a massive amount of money in terms of the length of time these soldiers were away from the workplace. But the officer training was the one area that needed to be rationalised. We weren’t conducting proper military appreciation process training at the centre. The type of operations we were doing was all conventional operations, which the
3rd Army doing this and that and using equipment that we did not own in our army and never would. Using equipment that we had no doctrine for because we didn’t have any other. Using organisations that we didn’t own. Nothing they were doing there in terms of the tactics training involved any of the organisations that we had within our army. So it was my view that we need to be preparing people for credible operations. There was no UN work being done
at all in any of this training. It wasn’t all corps (UNCLEAR), even though it was meant to be. It was more of an arms corps training environment which just had some logistics officers attending it. So we weren’t really addressing that all corps environment, which involved intelligence, logistics as well as the arms elements. So we changed it. Took about 12 months and a reasonable amount of grief in getting permission to do it, but eventually I did get permission to
do it and basically changed the whole concept of how we conducted the kind of officer training. It was all designed to train people in things that were credible and do it in an all corps environment. Enormous amount of work involved with it, we were changing literally all the courses that we ran. There was mixed support for it. Half the staff at the Land Warfare Centre
understood what I was doing and thought it was a good idea and even thought it was well overdue. There was also an equal number who didn’t agree with it at all. It was in conflict with what they had been taught as they were brought up through (UNCLEAR) system. I had bosses above me who were not supportive. The general in charge of training command was supportive. He convened a committee to have a look at what I was proposing to do and appointed
me to the committee, which was his way of saying, “OK, we’ll go through a process here, but you’ll have your voice on that process by being part of the committee.” Twelve months later it was decided that it was where we needed to go. In that 12 months, I had already been preparing to go there so that as soon as we got permission to do it, and I was then appointed as the training advisor, which then gave me authority to do all that without having to go to anybody else, we already had all the
framework for it to be put in place almost immediately. With this sort of change you’ve got to cement it within the organisation because you only have two years in a command appointment. So if I had done nothing in that first 12 months except say, “This is what we need to do.” and waited for them to say, “Yes.” and then took 12 months to put it all in place it would only be introduced when I was leaving and there was every chance that someone would come in behind me and say, “Bugger that. Hasn’t yet been introduced, it’s not going to be, just leave it as it is.”
It wasn’t universally accepted that this was the way to go. I was going to cement this process in place, but it had to be in place at least 12 months before place so I could make sure it was operating the way I wanted it to operate. And there was enough converts working within the organisation that I was able to get the right people in there to run the show that it wasn’t
then going to be changed by someone who came in behind.
You really think outside the army box and have had to work hard and have been beaten down a bit by doing that.
It’s been difficult in that I’ve virtually had to very early on in the piece, define where I want to go.
In some cases I’ve just done it and not consulted with anybody, like when I was in charge of 2/4 RAR with my approach to defining the training for the AVF [All Volunteer Force]. That worked brilliantly. It wasn’t til the next year that the brigade staff said, “What are you doing? Why is your battalion doing so well?” So I showed them what I had done. I had given them a report but they hadn’t read it. Then it was introduced by the other battalion in AVF.
In that case I don’t ask, because usually I know that I’m not going to receive the answer I need. When I have to ask, I will, but I don’t necessarily take no for an answer. Where I can I’ll do it and introduce it and then cop the flak afterwards, but by the time you’ve done that, if you’ve done it right it becomes fairly evident that what you’ve done is the right or smart thing to do and it’s pretty hard for
anyone to do much about that once that happens. The senior officers in the Defence Force are very bright people. If you’re able to argue your case fairly well usually you can get them across the line. The best way to do that is to demonstrate, “This is what I’ve done.” “Mate, this is having great results. What have you done here?”
“This is what I’ve done.” I just find it’s a lot easier to go and do it and ask permission later. At the Land Warfare Centre I couldn’t do that. I had to, I wasn’t the training advisor for the training I was delivering, which I felt was nonsense. I put forward a proposal within one week of arriving there about what needed to be done to fix the training. It didn’t go over well initially,
but the more senior officer in charge said, “We’ll have a look at it. A lot of what you said makes sense.” He wasn’t about to change the whole system of training that we had just on the basis that I said we should, but he could see that there were some compelling reasons to have a close look at this and we convened that meeting and that committee looking into it over a period of 12 months. Meanwhile
we were doing it. So I didn’t breach his trust by introducing it before I was given permission, but I was certainly doing all the groundwork behind the scenes to do all the preparation for it to be introduced. When he eventually got the committee’s decision on it he indorsed it and said, “You are now the training advisor. How long do you think it will take you to implement these changes?” I said, “Give me about a week.”
He knew from that that we had been doing a fair bit of this for a while. But I hadn’t done it until I was given permission to do it and the moment I was given permission everything was in place ready to go. It had to be done that way because I needed the full 12 months of running the training under this new system in the way it had to be run to cement it into the organisation. Otherwise people would have gone back to the old system almost immediately.
are you at now?
This was in 1997/98. I was there for two years.
What’s next after that?
I went down to the Defence College, which is a senior officer college which eight students from each of the three services attended with the rank of full colonel equivalent and there are senior public servants, there are a lot of
senior officers from all over the world that attend it as well. It’s run by a bunch of universities and we just look at strategic issues, we look at geopolitical issues, and just 12 months of study of what’s going on in the world. Do a lot of travel around the world. In my case, unfortunately, I only got to visit Indonesia and New Zealand and do a trip around Australia.
We were just about to go to Vietnam, Korea, China and Japan when I was pulled out early to go and command the brigade in Brisbane and of course at East Timor. The previous commander had been sent off to command the force in Bougainville and I’d already been appointed to command that force at the end of the year and they were just going to have a gap, not have anyone commanding, have the deputy commander stepping in for three months. But because of Timor and the need to prepare the extra forces
to go to Timor, they said, “We need him up there now.” So they pulled me out just before the overseas trip. It was a good year to basically relax. I was studying an MBA at the time unfortunately and I did an MBA in two years and that was my second year, so it wasn’t all that relaxing. There was a lot of spare time to go and just look at the flowers and contemplate issues.
I spent all my time finishing an MBA because I wanted to finish that before I went into the brigade because I knew I wasn’t going to have time to do it then.
Tell me about the build-up with Timor.
The 7th Brigade is a mechanised brigade and the mechanised capability was only just coming online. It has been a brigade that has been used for a whole bunch of trials. It was a ready reserve brigade. It was an integrated brigade where
It had about 50 percent full-time forces and 50 percent part-time forces. It didn’t necessarily have any formal readiness assigned to the brigade at all. So I knew that we were going to need elements out of 7th Brigade, [General] Peter Cosgrove told me that before he deployed over there. So basically I went up there and just organised the brigade along normal lines and having
one battalion group that was all full time and having one battalion group that was all reserve and then one battalion group that was a mix of reserve and full time and had three tiers of readiness in the brigade structure. That made more sense to me that having your full time placed throughout the whole brigade organisation because you’re only really as good as your lowest common denominator.
With the Defence Force that we had, if you were going to keep a force element on the ground you needed to have at least three elements of that same force to be able to rotate. So you’ve got one on the ground, you’ve got one preparing to take over from them and you’ve got another one that’s rebuilding having just come back. So you needed to operate in threes, and therefore you needed three levels of readiness and
they needed to be tied to the length of the operation. That’s the way I structured the brigade to achieve that. I did that fairly early, which meant that I had a battalion group that was available to deploy the next year to East Timor when they depleted all the other ready forces that they had. So it was quite timely that we did that. In fact, that structure that I used in the brigade was eventually picked up by army to
use as the army structure in their re-organisation. We had a meeting the year after in Canberra talking about how we need to structure the army to achieve what the government had said of being able to keep a brigade on operations all the time. It was that kind of structure that was the logical structure to use to enable us to do that. So you have a mix of forces. You’ve got your light infantry, you’ve got your mechanised and you’ve got your armoured element.
And you’ve got to structure those forces so you’ve got a high readiness battle group where you’ve got all the logistics and everything as part of that group and they’re all at the same level of readiness. Then you’ve got another one that’s able to deploy within 180 days, or whatever the timeframe of the operation is, and another one that’s able to deploy another 90 to 180 days, whatever it is, after that. That’s starts to allow you to define the readiness that you need and to work out where the reserve’s going to fit in and the kind of
readiness your reserves need to have. You can then plan the training you need, work out where you get your forces from, because they’ve got to be able to deliver x amount of training in any one year, and that starts to define where you can get these people from. We did a lot of work on developing that. I’d done it within my brigade while
I was there, but in terms of introducing that to the broader army, it was an easier thing to say, “Yes, we will do this.” than it was to do it. I don’t know whether they are still embracing that concept, but it’s certainly the way we needed to go. It’s got to be readiness oriented, be able to have the flexibility to be able to task organise for a specific type of operation and to have readiness within all those defined parts of the broader army
organisation and not just containing our readiness in to one or two brigades, which is the way we had been doing it up til then.
You didn’t end up going to Timor in the end though.
No, I was appointed to command the UN Brigade in Timor at the end of my tour as brigade commander, but unfortunately my wife was diagnosed with terminal cancer two days after the UN confirmed my appointment.
I was supposed to go to Timor for nine months and she was given seven months to live, so I said, “No, I’m not going.” So they left me in charge of the brigade for another year in the hope that something might happen and she’d be OK. The job was, they said, “In a year’s time you can do the job then.” But nine months down the track when I needed to confirm whether I could in fact do it or not, I said, “No, she’s
still alive, but she’s not going to survive.” And I wouldn’t go. So I was then offered two jobs. One in Sydney, one in Canberra, both quite senior jobs that would still give me, because I was due for promotion. I needed one more job as a brigadier before promotion to major general. And that second job needs to be a promote-able job. So both these jobs were promote-able jobs, so if I did them and did them well there would be a chance of getting promoted to general. But I wouldn’t do either
because it meant me leaving Brisbane to go to Sydney or Canberra and I wasn’t going to even suggest to my wife that we do that. I wasn’t going to leave her and she wasn’t going to leave the kids, and the kids couldn’t leave uni. So it was just never going to happen. I resigned. I said, “There’s only one way out of this. I’ll leave and look after her.” The other thing was, when my wife did die, that was inevitable, but I wasn’t about to leave the kids. They were saying,
“We’ll give you a job up here. We’ll just give you a project to do. Then you can take one of these jobs after that.” I said, “No, my kids are going to lose their mother and they’re not about to then lose their father.” Cos there was no other senior officer job back here in Brisbane I could come to. So she would have died and I would have been ended up leaving and it would be like losing both their mother and father in one fell swoop and I said, “I’m not going to do that.” So it was an easy decision for me to make. I made that decision as soon as she was diagnosed with
cancer. But the army resisted my retirement for 12 months and then after that they had no choice. “You either take this project job.” and that would have basically meant looking after her most the time, I’d just do a bit of writing or something, “or you take this job.” I said, “I’m not doing any of those.” If I had taken the project I would never have got promoted because it wasn’t a promote-able job, and I had no intention of staying in without
promotion. And I certainly had no intention of leaving Brisbane and moving away from the kids for at least a few years. I wanted to make sure they’d get over it and were well established in their own relationships and that sort of thing before I’d even contemplate leaving.
Was the army supportive?
Yes. You’ve got to realise that at my rank level there’s not a lot of opportunities around for you. No, I felt they did everything they could to help me.
Peter Cosgrove was excellent. He kept ringing me and was saying, “What can I do to help?” He found me these different jobs in different locations. Those different locations were designed, “You work out where the best medical treatment is and I’ll get you a job there. Here are the locations where I can still get you the sorts of jobs you need. You tell me which location offers you the best medical facility.” So he was trying to help me, but I wasn’t willing to
even ask my wife to leave. I never even mentioned that to her. I just said, “No, I’m not leaving Brisbane and I’m not asking her to leave Brisbane. I’ve got no career prospect unless I do and I fully understand the reasons for that. That’s the system and I operate within that system.” So it was an easy decision. You go through a five-second-
long analysis of the situation, and basically as soon as she got that cancer, they said, “There’s an operation to be had here and if the operation is successful she could be OK, if the operation’s not successful she can’t survive.” Basically I made my decision while I was waiting for the operation to unfold. I said, “If the operation is successful I’ll soldier on, go to Timor, there will be no need to change anything. If the operation is not successful, I’ll resign.” Soon as it wasn’t successful, I said, “I’m resigning.”
and they talked me into staying for another year just in case there was some miracle or something that happened. But at the end of that it wasn’t going to occur so I left.
How was it leaving after such a lengthy time?
It was all right. I don’t know, I don’t get sentimental about too many things. I have been mostly in command throughout my career. I’ve never served in Canberra for instance,
which is very odd for someone of my rank never to have served there except for the Defence College, which is not necessarily a job. So I spent most of my time in command. I’ve done a lot of postings that were 12, 18 months long. And I’ve put a lot of time and effort into changing organisations, so I’ve never looked back. I know a lot of the changes I’ve introduced into organisations have changed back again soon after I left. I don’t get bitter and twisted about it because I don’t look back at what they’ve done.
They’re now in charge. But I’ve taken the approach that I’m not going to do something (UNCLEAR). I’m not going to waste my time training a soldier in some skill that he’s never going to use. I’m not going to train a soldier in something he can already do. That’s been my approach all along. I’ve changed organisations to make sure what we were doing was right for the future and not suited to the past.
I’ve been able to walk on from every one of those commands and move onto the next one and not even think about what I’ve done before. It was just the same with leaving the army. I had to leave, I left, and I haven’t looked back. Just a case of deciding what the hell I was going to do when I did leave and eventually I decided to start a business which is what I’ve done. I enjoyed what I did. I would have preferred to have soldiered on. I’d rather be doing what I was doing than what I’m doing now, I fully admit that.
But when that wasn’t possible, I moved on. I don’t dwell on it.
How is it to leave such a regimented environment?
I would never have classed myself as necessarily being highly regimented. It’s a disciplined environment, but I think you need discipline in any walk of life.
I’ve never been tied to the regimental side of it at all. The things that you’re meant to do and not meant to do I really don’t care about. So I don’t think too many people would really class me as being highly regimented in that typical military sense. I’ve worked hard, I’ve done things in my own way and have not necessarily followed the rules as they were laid down to be followed. I’ve run
the shows, I’ve commanded basically the whole way. I followed the basic rules. I’m not saying that I’m a total rebel in that sense, but I’m not regimented in the sense that you start work at seven and finish at four and everything is done to military precision. I’m not into that.
How do you look back
now that you’re outside that army world?
I look at Sudan and I look at the UN thinking that they’re going to go in and they’re asking permission of the belligerent forces, “Do you mind if we come in?” Not much has changed. You hear of people dying, starving to death, and the world’s sitting on the sideline, and clearly by
the questions they’re asking, even if they were going to go in they’re not necessarily going in to save lives anyway. I get a bit frustrated in that I think that we have got to get a bit tougher with these rogue elements around the world. The UN has got to have a bit of muscle. The world community has got to say, “There are certain things that we will not tolerate happening in this world,
and if they do happen we are going to go in there and stop it.” But the UN is not willing to do that. They need a standing army for it to occur. They’ve tried to create one of those and they can’t. The whole of the UN-style operations is about compromise and they compromise away to a point where they’re totally ineffective. I wouldn’t be very surprised if the Sudanese will not let them in to Sudan
until all the damage has been done. Then they will bring them in and use them to get as much logistics and support as they can. A lot of the food that will come in will end up feeding the warring factions. There will be an enormous amount of money coming into the country which will be used in some way or another in time to fuel another conflict. When the UN gets involved the money comes. So I just think
they’ve got to sort out a process where they can get some consensus within the United Nations to step in, in the event of certain types of things occurring and say, “If this does occur then this is the kind of pressure we’re going to impose on those countries to force them to comply. In the even that they refuse to comply we will have to revert to using some kind of military conflict against them.” The thing is, from my experience of these African
nations, these people who are out there killing women and kids is about all they’re good at. You stand up to them with soldiers that are well trained and willing to fight back and they cower. You look at all these cases it’s the women and kids they are killing. That’s about all they’re up to. So all you really need is to have a UN that has got the willingness to go in and form a competent force on the ground and that force
would never even have to fire a shot. Then you could force a resolution. But you’ve got no idea what it is that you’re trying to achieve at the end of the day. There’s no sense in it unless you know what the end state has got to be. You can’t do that unless you understand the conflict and the history of the conflict and the waring parties. You’ve got to go through a very complex analytical process to work all that out.
So unless you can come to some agreement and say, “This is the end state we’re trying to achieve, this is achievable.” If it’s not achievable then don’t step in. “And this is the plan that we need to introduce to make that happen.” This is this campaign planning, this operational planning I was talking about before. Unless you’ve got something like that you’re then able to define what kind of military component you need, what other administrative, what other elements you need for this force
that can go in there and put this situation right. But resource it, have the muscle to make it work and not depend it on them saying yes or no, and give yourself a timeframe and go in there and fix it up. But fix it up once and for all and not just for two more years so the same can happen again five years down the track. Until the UN can do that they should stay out, because they’re not going to save any lives anyway.
So you have any regrets looking back?
No, I don’t have any regrets. Even the difficult time I had getting into the army. There wasn’t anything that I was doing in that time, apart from being in the public service for a while, that I was doing at that time
that I regret. I met some great people, made some great friends and we had a great time. I have done the army the hard way, I’ll be the first to admit that. Coming in late on maximum age going up through Portsea. It has not been easy. And my approach was not designed to make it easy either. But I was successful.
I’ve been very, very lucky that I’ve had so much command experience because that’s all I wanted to do. I was never designed to be a staff officer. I could do that but I didn’t want to. I was in my view built for being in charge of people and I’ve done a lot of that and I’ve really enjoyed it. The bulk of my army career has been doing that. I’ve done a lot of study, I’ve got many qualifications, which have broadened my horizons a lot, and I think that’s
one of the reasons I was able to do a lot of the things I did in the army was because of that other experience I gained from study. I’m now ready to pursue another career for 10 or 15 years or whatever I decide to do it for. This business environment, investments and things like that, is something that I’ve had a keen interest in all my life. If I wasn’t doing what I was, I think stockbroking or something like that was probably the area I would have gone to.
Maybe because it’s got that analytical component to it. I’ve moved on from the army. I’ve enjoyed what I did. I think I’ve made a difference. I’ve certainly never compromised myself in any way in the whole time I was there. I think I’m reasonably well respected for what I’ve achieved and the approach that I’ve taken. I’m now moving on and I’ve got stability now. I’ve got my own house, the kids are living here, they don’t have to move again. The only regret that I have is that
my wife is not here to enjoy this stable part of our life. She never got to enjoy that at all.
Do you feel part of the Anzac tradition?
Yeah, I think so. The Anzac tradition as we know it about these soldiers going off to war and stuff, I think back about what they endured. That’s one of the other things I said to people in Rwanda,
“Put this in perspective. What we are seeing over here and what we are doing is shocking, but it pales into insignificance compared to what the people in the First World War were witnessing.” They were living around dead bodies, their mates were being killed. There was just slaughter going on all over the place and they were doing it for five or six years. So we, as a younger generation, have got to realise that
what we experienced was certainly out of the norm, but it was nothing compared to what the Anzacs did. So in that sense no, I don’t feel as though I’m even close to have experienced what the Anzacs did. But I guess I feel the spirit. I feel the fact that we did go overseas. We did a job and we did it our way.
That’s what the Anzacs did. They were successful because they didn’t necessarily do it the way everybody else was doing it. They did it their way and they were very successful at it. We went over to Africa and did a very hard job and we did it our way, we did it the Australian way. I would have expected any Australian force that was sent over there to be doing things exactly the same way, maybe not exactly the same way, but in a similar vein to what we did.
So it was the Australian way. In that sense I do feel that Anzac spirit. We’ve been out there, we’ve helped people and we haven’t cowered from threats and we haven’t been bullied into doing anything that shouldn’t have been done. We never compromised on the operations and we achieved what it was we were sent there to achieve.
Are there any last words or anything you’d like to say?
In terms of when I look back on my military career, I come to one thing that I would like to see in terms of Defence Force is more objectivity in terms of the leadership within the organisation. To get away from the tribalism, to have a look, to have the awareness of where
the world is going. Step away from the training you’ve had in the past and have a look, and what’s relevant for the future? Make sure the forces that we’ve got are structured for the credible things that will happen in the future, that our people are trained to perform those operations and that they’re equipped for it. We’ve had a lot of experience in different wars in the past. The
British Army was prepared for the Boer War when they went into the First World War. They were prepared for the First World War when they went into the Second World War. We’ve basically followed that British tradition pretty well. We’ve got to make sure that when we are engaged in conflicts in the future that we are preparing for those conflicts now and not preparing for something that’s happened in the past. I’ve found that that tradition takes far too long. In a fast moving world, I don’t think we can afford to take that long.