by Sgt Terry Edwinsmith
Bellwether, chief, commander, director, foreman, head-most, premier, ruler, senior etc.
Leadership is as diverse as the people placed in that position.
Some are anointed, promoted or born to that position. Many are conferred this position by those who wish to be led. We choose our leaders to guide us on life’s journey. Dictatorships are exempted, however.
Take a certain Fredrick Alexander Wilson, for example.
He was born in the UK and before the age of 9 years, his mother fell on hard times. She became socially isolated and the family lived below the bread line after Fred’s father died. The family split up and Fred and his immediate older brother, Phillip were placed into Barnardos Home from where he was sent, by himself, to Australia. He settled into the Fairbridge Farm School at Pinjarra near Perth in WA. There he lived, mixing with his peers. Community living does tend to remove your rough edges. To survive, conforming to the rules and working favourably with those around you, are pathways to a successful life in that environment.
At the commencement of WW11, Fred is selected for radio operator training in the RAAF. On completion, he is chosen to travel to the UK where he becomes a tail gunner on the RAF Lancaster bombers. Being of only average stature, would have assisted Fred in this placement.
After surviving the war, Fred enlists into the Australian Army. He climbs the non-commissioned ranks, reaching the rank of sergeant for service in the Korean War. A posting to the Military Staff College at Fort Queenscliffe in Victoria followed. This preceded his final posting to TPNG as a warrant officer before he became the Regimental Sergeant Major as a WO1 at 1PIR.
From very humble beginnings, Fred rose to be second-in- command to the CO at Taurama Barracks in PNG.
It was not his imposing height or massive stature, nor his deep voice or overbearing personality. Fred was a man’s man.
It was his position and quiet manner that engendered respect.
Fred gave respect, he received respect.
He was firm but moderate with his commands. Any serious matters were dealt with quietly, away from the view of others.
An incident that has stayed with me all my life is, as a newly appointed soldier to 1PIR, I alighted from my transport jeep and commenced to ascend the stairs of the Administration building. Upon seeing me from his office, Fred came and offered me his hand in welcome and advised me of my accommodation.
” I was a stranger and you welcomed me in.”
In the 6 months or so that I served under Fred, I cannot remember any major disagreement taking place in the barracks.
That’s leadership – quiet, confident, firm, friendly direction was Fred’s way. He was a giant in his chosen profession.