1PIR’s BOOMERANG BOY
1PIR’s BOOMERANG BOY (By Terry Edwinsmith)
RSM WO1 Frederick Alexander Wilson ARA 5487
24/06/1924 to 27/03/1968
The book, ‘Boomerang Boy’ tells the compelling story of Taurama Barrack’s RSM, Fred Wilson who died at 1PIR on 27th March 1968 when he was 43 years old, and his older brother Philip who served in the European campaigns during WW11.
This is a tragic story of a family torn apart in the UK in the 1930s. Fred and his brother Philip were separated at the ages of 8 and 10 from their Barnardo’s home with Fred being sent to Australia to Fairbridge Farm School, Pinjarra in WA near Perth. Fred continued there until war came and he enlisted in the RAAF and was eventually sent back to the UK where he became a tail gunner on the RAF’s Lancaster bombers.
Phil was close by training for Infantry and then his deployment to Europe fighting the Germans, in France, Belgium and then Germany. He was not treated for PTSD on his return. He never met his brother who returned to Australia after several UK visits.
Fred enlists in the ARA in 1948 and serves in several postings before being deployed to Korea in October 1951 attaining the rank of Sergeant. Not long after his return to Australia after this conflict, Fred is chosen to represent Australia in 1953 at the Queen’s Coronation in the UK. Fred was unable to contact his UK family while he was there.
A posting to Army Command Staff College in Fort Queenscliff in Victoria came with three more promotions in rank. However the main story here is that Fred met a 19 year old bank employee named Vera. Fred was 33 and they dated for four years. It is now 1961 and a wage protest is occurring at Taurama Barracks in PNG. The CO sent at least 50 demonstrators on patrol. Fred was appointed as RSM to restructure the battalion and bring order and stability to this northern posting. Meantime, Vera after 7 years working at the bank, resigned and followed Fred northward where they were married in the Taurama Barrack’s chapel in December 1961.
For 4 years from 1962- 66, the battalion patrolled the border with Indonesia. Fred and Vera were blessed with two children, Anthony and Susanne during this time.
In April 1966, the Army promoted Brigadier Ian Murray Hunter to head PNG Command. Later in that year the first of the Education Sergeants (chalkies) were appointed to each battalion.
As young conscript chalkies serving at 1PIR in 1966-8, some of us admired the quiet, efficient work that our RSM did. I was personally welcomed to this battalion with a greeting and a handshake from Fred when I first attended the battalion’s administration centre. As senior NCOs we attended dine ins, movie nights and mess get-togethers with Fred, Vera and the family on a regular basis.
When Fred died on 29th March 1968 due to undiagnosed health problems, all of us at the battalion marched behind the coffin and family cortège. He was buried in the Taurama Cemetery.
On a revisit to 1PIR in 2011, several of us saw the vandalism of the cemetery whereby ‘raskols’ had removed the metal plaques attached to the burial sites, and I wrote an article on-line that stirred action that restored much of the original headstones. A redevelopment of the site followed with a rededication of the grave site. Since then Vera has been buried with her husband in the Taurama Cemetery.
In October 2011, an article about Conscript Soldiers in PNG was written and posted on-line. The Keith Jackson & Friends PNG Attitude website and our Nashos PNG which was in its infant stage at that time, helped David Wilson, Fred’s nephew living in the UK, find his Australian cousins. Fred’s demise had been mentioned in one of my very early online articles.
This had far reaching outcomes.
Firstly David Wilson and later Susie Ellis (Wilson) made contact after reading the articles. They were cousins from
the other side of the world who were now united.
Our Chalkies stories published online allowed Fred’s nephew in the UK to learn of Fred’s demise and to eventually to find his cousins, Fred’s son and daughter.
Secondly, our chalkies network found members through out Australia which were added to our growing list of ex-servicemen.
Thirdly, we have witnessed the birth of the book ‘Boomerang Boy’ and are honoured to be a small part of the narrative as David, Fred’s nephew has written about his families’ circumstances.
David Wilson has pieced together his father’s and uncle’s sad stories. A Kindle version is available from Amazon for $12.
This is a Family History story, it’s not for everyone. Fred’s life at 1PIR has been an inspiration to me. A true Aussie Gentleman.
RIP RSM Fred Wilson.
Other references of Interest
Armi Wantoks: conscript chalkies and PNG – Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG ATTITUDE (typepad.com)
Events leading to a Rededication of Graves at Taurama Barracks Cemetery. 25/9/2013 – Nashos (nashospng.com)
1PIR’s WO1 Frederick Wilson: A boys’ own adventurer – Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG ATTITUDE (typepad.com)
An email from the author to Terry Edwinsmith
Subject: Boomerang Boy
I am thrilled to say that my first book, ‘Boomerang Boy’ is now published.
It is the moving true story of my late father and his younger brother who were sent to Barnardo’s in the 1930s and were then separated as children when my Uncle Fred was shipped to Australia at the age of nine. Without them even knowing, their lives ran along remarkably similar lines as war loomed and they began their journey to manhood.
Terry, I hope you are well. I wanted to let you know that my book is now available via Kindle and in paperback from Amazon if you know of any of your friends who might be interested in reading it.
All the best.
Author of ‘Boomerang Boy’
(published by Take A Leaf, September 2021)
Notes from the website.
The RSM and I both walked out of the mess at the same time that day. Later, Taurama was unusually quiet. I asked someone what was wrong and was told the RSM had passed. What a shock!
Compared to this quietness, the sound of a battalion of soldiers slow marching on a bitumen road with gravel on it at his funeral was something I’ll always remember.
Rest In Peace RSM Wilson.
Graham Carnes 1PIR 1967-8
RSM WOI Frederick Alexander Wilson, born 24/06/1924, died 27 March 1968 was a child migrant who arrived in in May 1934 at Fairbridge Farm School Pinjarra W.A.
He served in the RAAF in WW2 and also in Korea. He died in New Guinea in 1968. As a Fairbridge boy myself and a serviceman I find it very disturbing that history has disappeared forever. (Concerning the destruction of the grave site.)
Posted by: George Braithwaite |14 May 2013