I regret to advise the passing of a good mate and a former proud member of the 31st Bn – Geoff Barlow. Geoff passed away yesterday at the Mater Hospital Townsville. Geoff had suffered from Cancer & had many Operations during the past couple of years.
Pre 60s Khaki Uniforms and Blanco’d belts and Gaters
60s Jungle Greens Black Belts and New Gaters
The 31st Infantry Battalion Association was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Mme Marie Paule Demassiet.
Our Association President in Townsville, Col. (Retd) Greg Stokie expressed our thoughts in a letter to Marie Paule’s family. Our Honorary Member in France Pierre Seillier, has tells us how he heard the sad news himself:
·Hello to all my Aussie friends, many of you know that Lambis Englezos my great friend is in France, I’m back from Fromelles where I caught up Lambis at Pheasant Wood… But I was surprised to see him with tears in his eyes… He told me the sad news and asked that I inform all our friends in France and Australia. It is with a great sadness that I must to inform all the friends of the great Fromelles’ Family that Ms Marie Paule Demassiet passed away this morning… Ms Marie Paule Demassiet was the great lady who gave the permission to do the researches for the mass graves at Pheasant Wood because she was the owner of the land, She was the lady who said after the discovery of the remains of our brave soldiers “I give my Land to Australia…”
We are all devastated, because we loved her so much, by a strange coincidence the funeral will take place on next Tuesday, 19th July at 10.30 am…gathering at the church of Fromelles at 10.15am. She will have been with her “beloved young soldiers” as she said always, until her last breath… If some of you want to send condolence message, they can do it on my email ( email@example.com ) and I will pass it to Marie Paule’s daughter, Ms Annie Moreel and her family, who are my friends since a long time…
Bonjour à tous mes amis Australiens et Français, vous êtes nombreux à savoir que Lambis Englezos mon grand ami est en France, je reviens de Fromelles où j’ai rejoins Lambis à Pheasant Wood… Mais j’ai été surpris de le voir les larmes aux yeux … Il m’a annoncé la triste nouvelle et m’a demandé de prévenir tous nos amis de France et d’Australie. C’est avec une grande tristesse que je dois prévenir tous les amis de la grande Famille Fromelles que Madame Marie Paule Demassiet est décédée ce matin… Madame Marie Paule Demassiet est la grande dame qui a donné l’autorisation de faire les recherches pour les fosses communes à Pheasant Wood parce qu’elle était la propriétaire de la terre, elle était la dame qui a dit après la découverte des restes de nos braves soldats “Je donne ma terre à l’Australie…”
Nous sommes tous dévastés, car nous l’aimions tant, par une étrange coïncidence les obsèques auront lieu le mardi 19 juillet prochain jour anniversaire de la Bataille de Fromelles à 10h30…rassemblement à l’église de Fromelles à 10h15. Elle aura été avec ses “jeunes soldats bien-aimés” comme elle le disait toujours, jusqu’à son dernier souffle… Si certains d’entre vous veulent envoyer un message de condoléances, ils peuvent le faire sur mon mail ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) et je le transmettrai à la fille de Marie Paule, Mme Annie Moreel et sa famille, qui sont mes amis depuis longtemps…
Marie Paule nous t’aimons tellement, tu nous manque déjà…
Mme Demassiet with John Fielding (L) and Lambis Englezos AM (R)
Mme Demassiet Signing the Official Documents to allow the Search for the Missing Diggers
The start of the Pheasant Wood Cemetery
Mme Demassiet with Pierre Seillier and her Family at the Pheasant Wood Cemetery
At a Service where another Australian Soldier has been Identified
At Pheasant Wood Cemetery
Mme Demassiet with a relative of one of the Soldiers who has now been Identified
The story of Lambis Englezos AM and his search for the missing 200 diggers from the Fromelles Battle is in the archives of this website (see Archives of June and July 2021) The 31st Battalion association and indeed all Australians are indebted to this great and generous lady, Mme Marie Paule Demassiet for allowing the recovery and reburial of our missing diggers.
Members & Friends, it is with great sadness I advise you that our good mate, – Proud ex CO of 42Bn RQR, – and staunch member of 31st Bn Assoc (Brisbane Branch), – DOUG ANGUS passed away last evening (Tue 10th May 2022) about 6.30PM at the PA Hospital Brisbane.
Doug, has been suffering from a weak Heart after his Quadruple By-Pass some years ago. He has also has been suffering constant pain from a bad back for many months.
A bit over a week ago, Doug had a bad fall and has since been at the PA Hospital where he subsequently passed away.
DOUG ANGUS – RIP dear Friend.
Tony has now posted the following notification of Doug’s Funeral:
Please note the Funeral arrangements of our good Mate – past Commanding Officer of the 42nd Bn Royal Queensland Regiment, – LTCOL Doug Angus (Retd)
TIME & DATE:- 12.30PM – Friday 20th May 2022.
WHERE:- Mt. Thompson Memorial Gardens – EAST Chapel. – 329 Nursery Rd. Holland Park Qld 4121
DRESS:- Members:- Anzac Day attire – Jacket, Tie, Medals, Beret, Name Tags. Doug’s Family has indicated they would welcome the Association’s & 31/42 Bn RQR Personnel attendance.
The Family have given us permission to liaise with them & the Funeral Directors for us to either, form a Guard of Honour, or a Final Salute. I hope members will make a special effort to attend, to provide a last Fairwell to Doug, who made every effort to attend all Association Functions despite his Ill Health during the past few years.
Tribute to Doug created by our Honorary Member in France Pierre Seillier
Doug as CO 42RQR (second from left) with members of the Unit in the Field
Doug (third from left) on Joint exercise.
Doug newly promoted to LtCol
Doug enjoying a get together with members after a recent meeting
Members, we have been advised of the sad news – the passing of “Elsie Burla” – wife of Bob Burla (Dec’d):- Former OC – Charlie Company Ingham & later Founder of the 31st Bn Association & Author of “Crossed Boomerangs” – History of the 31st Bn.
Elsie, continued to be a great supporter of the 31st Bn, particularly Charlie Company Ingham after Bob’s death. Bob died prior to completing his Book – “Crossed Boomerangs” , – Elsie completed the Book & organised its publication & distribution. Refer to the Attachment from Felix Reitano.
Elsie has continued attending the Battalions annual Church Service up until year ago & always wanted her Photo taken with the Old Brisbane Branch Boys who served with husband Bob.
Our thoughts go to the Family of this wonderful lady. –
RIP Elsie Burla
Tribute By Felix Reitano
Elsie Burla – Obituary by Professor Stephen Graw – 7/2/22
I cannot recall exactly when I first met Elsie but it would have been either in the very late 1970s or the early 1980s at a function, which she would have attended with her husband Bob, in the Mess at Jezzine Barracks.
In fact, all of my early encounters with her were around social occasions either at Jezzine or, after I became the OC of 31 IRC, at 31 Battalion Association functions in either Townsville or Ingham (wth at least one occasion in Charters Towers ̶ after the dedication of the Memorial at the former Sellheim Army camp in 1985).
I remember her from that time as a very softly spoken, very gracious lady with a quiet sense of humour which she deployed easily when she got to know you.
My real association with her though only came about after Bob’s untimely death in 1995 after a short illness. I was then the CO of the Battalion and I was greatly honoured when Elsie asked me to speak at the funeral. It was a very sad occasion but Elsie maintained her poise and was a rock of support for Bob’s dad, Dario, through what was clearly a very difficult time for them both.
Shortly thereafter Elsie rang to ask if she could come to see me about how we might arrange to get Bob’s history of the Battalion professionally published.
Bob had written it as a ten-part series of ‘Historical Journals’ which had then been compiled into a composite history of the unit.
I had found a copy in a sideboard in the Mess when I arrived in Townsville in 1977 – in three bound copies of roneoed typescript. I had dipped into those three volumes on occasion but had never read them through completely – always promising myself that “one day” I would.
I regret to say that that never happened – at least not while Bob was still alive ‒ and when I returned to the battalion as the CO in late 1994 I was more than a little disturbed to find that only the third volume could still be found. Of the first and second volumes there was no trace. It was largely assumed that they had been “borrowed” by someone and it was hoped that eventually they would be returned. As far as I know they never were.
I was therefore both glad and relieved when Elsie rang, and then came to see me, with her sister Veen, in my office at the University.
And that was when I discovered another aspect to Elsie ̶ her quiet but steely determination. Bob’s dying wish, she told me, was to have the book published in a form that was, in his words, ‘worthy of the Battalion’ – and she wanted to make that happen.
She had a full unbound copy of the complete work with her and our first step was to convert it into data files that would be acceptable to a publisher in the electronic age. The Department possessed what then passed for a very effective scanner and my secretary, Pat Adams, patiently scanned all of the roneoed pages over the ensuing weeks.
However, our 1995 scanner did not take kindly to the typeface of the old manual typewriters on which Bob had typed up his original manuscript – especially after the pages were then reproduced on one of the old Gestetners. What came out of the scanner was not always entirely accurate – or, sometimes, even entirely English.
Spell-checking of the finished product helped a little but foreign place names, unit designations and military abbreviations, in particular, defeated Pat and it was Elsie who, page by page, word by word, comma by comma, name by name, unit designation by unit designation checked every one of those scanned pages to ensure that they were an accurate replication of what Bob had written. It was a Herculean task and a real labour of love – with Elsie often going back not only to the original manuscript but also to Bob’s original source documents, references photos and maps to ensure that what we had was as accurate as we could make it.
Then came the task of finding a publisher.
At that time I chaired the North Queensland Military Museum Committee of Management and we had some connection with the then emerging Army History Unit.
I suggested to Elsie that we see whether the AHU might be interested, she concurred, and we wrote to the Head of the Unit who agreed to see whether the manuscript met the AHU’s publishing criteria. After about a year of correspondence back and forth he advised us that their brief required a more policy-oriented approach and Bob’s book, being centred on what had happened at the soldier level, did not fit that picture.
He did however suggest that another publisher, Nelsons, might be interested so Elsie and I contacted them. They were interested – but after some initial consideration they too felt that the book, though interesting, was probably not a commercial proposition.
We tried a couple of other possibilities with no real success ̶ and I have to say that at that point I was becoming a little discouraged.
But Elsie was not to be deterred and it was she who, once again, got the project back on the rails.
She saw me in early May 1999 (the 5th) with a copy of a book she had received that had been published by a commercial publisher of which I had not previously heard – Australian Military History Publications. The book was very professionally put together, it looked good and, more importantly for us, it contained contact details for the publisher – Clive Baker. We immediately rang him and arranged to send him a copy of the retyped manuscript for him to consider.
Eleven days later (on 16th May) Clive wrote back saying he would like to publish. Elsie’s determination had paid off in spades.
And so started the publication process – but there was still a considerable amount of work to be done to convert the retyped manuscript into what would become a finished book which in Bob’s words would be ‘worthy of the Battalion’.
Elsie was a driving force throughout that process – checking references, organising photos and doing all the myriad little things that have to be done if a book is ever to see the light of day. I had given her a small booklet from one of the legal publishing houses that outlined the typesetters’ marks that were then an essential editing tool and she assiduously set about familiarizing herself with them – and using them with every tranche of typescript that she checked – so that all of her corrections and amendments were carefully noted with the appropriate typesetters’ mark in the margins so Clive could see exactly what had to be done – and how it had to be done.
With her usual thoroughness, Elsie also arranged for her work to be independently checked for correctness. She organized with Ian McIntosh, a former OC of B Company (Bowen, Proserpine and Ayr/Home Hill) and one of Bob’s many friends, who was then living in retirement in Forrest Beach, for him to act as an additional proof-reader.
Given Elsie’s attention to detail I doubt whether there was a lot that Ian had to correct. His involvement was, however, an important fail-safe and it was typical of Elsie that she had identified the need – and found someone who could meet it.
In short, without Elsie “Crossed Boomerangs”, in its final published form, would never have seen the light of day. For that, the Battalion owes her a great debt of gratitude ‒ second only to the debt we owe Bob – for ensuring that its history was formally recorded in a permanent form that will be accessible to future generations.
But that is not the only debt that we owe Elsie. One of Bob’s signature achievements was the formation of the 31st Battalion Association which he instigated in 1976 and of which he was the inaugural President, continuing in that role until right up until his death.
Bob might have been the President but it was very much a double act. Elsie was always there to support him, attending all of the functions and being very much a part of whatever the Association did. After Bob’s death she continued her involvement and, until recent years, was a regular attendee, in particular, at reunion dinners and, with her niece Leigh Cristaldi, at the Annual church service. For her dedication she was, very deservedly, made a life member of the Association in1997.
Elsie, you will be greatly missed, not only by your family but by all those who were privileged to be a part of your life. May you rest in peace.
The Secretary of the Brisbane Branch of our 31st Bn Association, Tony Wadeson passes on the following sad news: Members – We have been advised of the passing of MajGen Mick Fairweather AM RFD who was previously a Commander of 11Bde. I met him when he used to attend the yearly 31st Bn Church Service’s held in the “Rocks Area” Sydney
This is a Bio on the late MAJGEN Mick Fairweather. Mick James & Chris Hamilton have supplied the Info. Mick was one of the old school who rose up through the Ranks & had experience of Command at all Levels from L/Cpl up. He Commanded 25th Bn RQR. Chris Hamilton has supplied the undermentioned Bio.
Notification was received from our 49 Bn Mate Garry Saunderson. REGARDS TONY
For those who aren’t on Facebook (or who don’t see posts from Duncan Schulz), the above is a post from Duncan Schulz
Tony continues: I did however receive the Poem reproduced below. It was passed onto me by our good mate Peter Grogan of 49 Bn & 25 Bn Associations.
You’ll note the Poem was written in Sept 1990 by one – C. Hamilton, (Now Brigadier Chris Hamilton (Rtrd) & past CO of 31st Bn), who has given me the OK to resurrect his early Jottings.
The CO’s History (MAJGEN Ian Fairweather)
T’was Mick the Tick
From Gatton town
Who caught the Ares craze.
He gave up sport & drinking grog
And re-arranged his days
To put on greens & GP boots
A pack & webbing too
He headed off to QAC
To see what he could do.
They trained for wars that never came
It didn’t worry Mick
He soldiered on & earned his pay
His mates they thought him thick
He should be here & drinking beer
Was heard about the town
But Mick the tick, he acted deaf
He was headed for a crown.
From course to course
He moved along the postings in between
From CPL Mick to SGT Mick
The wildest they had seen
He earned his pips he took the bit
No one could slow him down
The die was cast he headed fast
T’wards a pip beside that crown.
Was CAPT Mick – then MAJ Mick
He arrived up on the Downs
To join ye ken with the Mountain men
A Battalion of renown
So Company B soon came to be
The wariest of the mob
To awake poor old Roma at daylight on their jogs.
He went of then with Gentlemen
Of the other arms n corps
To do Tac 5 after he had survived
The trials of the Senior course
Said COL Lane “He’s back again”
Promoted same as me
He’ll have to do as Chief Moutain man 11
Lord knows who we’ll get as 111.
So it came to pass when the high level brass
Write down 25th with their pen
As they dry their ink they pause to think
Of Mick & his Mountain Men.
Written on 27th September 1990 by a – C. Hamilton –(a Lost Poet)
who ended up as CO of 31st Bn on his way to be – BRIG Chris Hamilton.
(I believe it was about the time Mick took Command of 25 Bn)
Members, I regret to advise that Our fellow Member & Mate, Merv Hazell passed
away this afternoon 30th Nov 2021.
May he Rest in Peace.
In a further message Branch Secretary Tony Wadeson added:
Merv had been fighting a battle with Cancer for a few years. He has still been attending
meetings and services despite being quite ill. His wife Kay has been by his side fighting
the battle with him all the way. She has been truly marvelous.
Member Mick James called on him at the nursing home on the Friday prior to his
passing. Merv recognised Mick & showed he was pleased to see him although he
had difficulty communicating.
Merv in the centre of the Reserve Forces Day 2015 group
Merv (fourth from Left) Reserve Forces Commemoration 2018
Anzac Day Brisbane – Prior to the March – 2013
Merv and Mick James Scouting out a meeting Venue in better times.
RIP – Merv
Members & Friends,it is with great sadness I have to advise you of the passing of our Member – PETER STEWART this morning (Sunday 18th July 2021). Peter was competing in an Ocean Swim in Darwin and apparently developed a medical episode and was pulled from the water deceased. Peter, was the son of our past member DAVID STEWART, and had turned 60 Years of age earlier this year. Peter & wife Sharon were members of our Team that toured the Western Front – 2016 & attended the 100th Anniversary of The Battle of Fromelles Commemoration Service at Fromelles.
Peter & Sharon & Family would come down from Darwin each year, – late April & would march with us in the Brisbane ANZAC DAY March. Our thoughts and Prayers go to Peter’s wife Sharon & Mother Dawn & Family. This news was passed on to us by friend/member Sean Rooney.
Rest in Peace – our good mate, Peter Stewart.
Peter and Sharon Stewart
Peter at his competitive best
Message from Association Brisbane Branch Secretary, Tony Wadeson –
Members, I have received very sad news from Felix Reitano in Ingham, – Our great old Mate & Comrade – The man from Charters Towers – Alan Hartley, – Passed away this morning at about 2.30AM (15th July 2021). Many of us served with Alan in the 50’s & 60’s & 70’s in the 31st Bn & later through the Association. A great man who will be missed.
ALAN HARTLEY – Rest In Peace
A true Officer & Gentleman
Tribute from Felix Reitano
Alan in a group photo of Officers from 31st Battalion on the occasion of
Presentation of the Colours 25th August 1968
(From Crossed Boomerangs by Bob Burla)
The Cover of Alan’s Funeral Service Handout
Below is the Eulogy Authored by Felix Reitano and delivered at the service for Alan
Associate Member Ross Konowalenko has passed on the sad news of the passing of fellow member Brian Jones on 24/5/2021:
It is with sadness that I inform you that our fellow 31st Battalion Association member (and RSL Life Member) Brian Jones of Beachmere, Qld, passed away peacefully with his family by his side at 0730hrs this morning in Townsville, after a long and courageous fight with cancer.
Brian was a very active RSL and community member for many years and as you may recall, when in better health he volunteered his time to help others through Legacy. His father’s plaque is on his local Beachmere RSL sub branch memorial and Brian was a very proud ‘sapper’, graduate from the Army Apprentices School and saw ‘local service’ during his time in PNG.
As more information comes to hand and with the permission of his family, I will keep you informed accordingly.
My prayers are with his family and each of you at this time.
Yours in service,
Note from Martin O’Sullivan
Brian and I served together both in Papua New Guinea in PNGVR in the 60s and again in 31RQR in the 70s and 80’s. Brian had started as at the Army Apprentice Centre at Balcombe Vic and subsequently served as a Sapper prior to moving back to civilian life and heading for PNG in the early 1960s.
He joined up with PNGVR shortly afterward. Like many of us who had prior service in the Army in Australia, we were issued with new service numbers upon joining PNGVR. It was only later when we were both serving with 31RQR that I discovered that our service numbers were not that far apart meaning that we both joined around the same time.
I arrived back in Australia and took up a position in Townsville in 1971 and Brian was subsequently transferred to Charters Towers. Both of us were then posted to 31RQR Brian as a WO2 and I as a Lt. Brian subsequently applied for and was granted a Commission.
After the damaging Miller report reduced the Battalion to 31 Indep Rifle Coy in 1976 we spent 10 years in various staff postings and postings with other units. With a huge effort on the part of many of us at the time, we managed to boost our numbers back to Battalion level.
By 1986 with the unit back to a Battalion again I was appointed as OC Admin Coy with Brian, who by that time was a Captain as 2IC Admin. We held those positions until we both retired in 1989
Some years later Brian and I met up again when we both retired, he to Beechmere and I to the Sunshine Coast.
In more recent times Brian had courageously battled against Cancer over a period of years. He moved to Townsville after his wife Nancy’s tragic death, to be close to his son Richard, who is serving at Lavarack Barracks.
Brian was a fine soldier, a good practical hand and a great mate. My thoughts and prayers are for him and his family.
Well done mate, RIP.