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Author Archive | Keith Maxwell

Bushwalker recognised with O.A.M.

Well know bushwalking historian, rogainer and conservationist Andy Macqueen has been recognised with an O.A.M. in the latest Queen’s Birthday Honours list.  It is great to see bushwalking being recognised.

Over many years Andy has been busy in so many ways from rewalking the routes of early European explorers (to determine where they really went) to weeding of invasive willow in remote sections of the Colo River Gorge to delving deep into NSW State Library archives to research the early history of bushwalking and Bushwalking NSW (BNSW).  So, BNSW extends its congratulations to a past BNSW President.

In a way Andy is being honoured for being a bushwalker.  While the O.A.M. newspaper citation is for “service to conservation and the environment” the full citation at the “Its an Honour” website lists –

# Foundation Member, Sea Spurge Remote Area Teams (SPRAT), since 2007.

# Foundation President, Friends of the Colo, since 2000.

# Member, Blue Mountains Regional Advisory Committee, National Parks and Wildlife Service.

 

These extraordinary activities are only possible by being a bushwalker.  Hence, congratulations to Andy Macqueen for being a bushwalking conservationist.

The link below to the Blue Mountains Gazette has an excellent profile of Andy Macqueen O.A.M.

https://www.bluemountainsgazette.com.au/story/6200917/environmental-activist-andy-macqueen-honored/?cs=1432

Change in search and rescue over time

The history of Bush Search and Rescue NSW (BSAR) shows how remote area search and rescue in NSW has changed since 1936 when it was established as the “Search and Rescue Section of the NSW Federation of Bushwalking Clubs” (S&R).  In 1936 a team of bushwalkers informally assisted NSW Police in the search for four young men missing in the Grose Valley.  After this search Paddy Pallin, among others, approached NSW Police to formalise arrangements to assist NSW Police in the future.

The model of BSAR has always been to use bushwalkers skilled in remote area navigation to travel independently in National Park type country to aid NSW Police as required.  Mostly, BSAR has been involved in searching for missing persons.

The first “Director” of S&R was Paddy Pallin (founder of the well-known bushwalking shop).

In these early days a telephone tree was used to contact bushwalkers as required.  The S&R Committee would contact a particular “Club Phone Contact” to ‘callout’ club members.  In the very early days search teams would travel by train to an incident.

Sgt Ray Tyson of NSW Police Rescue Squad would often rely on S&R Secretary, Heather White (1959 – 1975) who he thought had an uncanny knowledge of the Blue Mountains.

The “Field Officer” is in control of S&R field operations.  Ninian Melville was appointed as S&R Field Officer in 1961 and replaced Paddy as Director in 1970.  Also, in May 1970 S&R joined the  Volunteer Rescue Association of NSW (VRA) at their first Mid-Year Conference.

HF radio was introduced to S&R by Bob Mead during the 1960’s.  Dick Smith, then a member of Sydney Bush Walkers, assisted in the purchase of the first generation of AM field radios.  In 1979 the second generation of field radios moved to FM SSB.  The ‘QMac’ fourth generation of field radio has given outstanding service for many years as smaller, lighter and more powerful than all previous radios.  BSAR now uses a mix of VHF / UHF radios with these HF radios.

Robert Pallin, son of Paddy took over as Director in October 1971 when Ninian stood down.  Vertical rescue for S&R at this time was done by members of the Sydney Rock Climbing Club (SRC) with Fergus Bell was the “Rock Rescue Officer”.

Fergus Bell worked closely with Robert until he became Director in September 1980. Later, in July 1984 the author moved from Field Officer to Director.

NavShield was set up in 1989 by Secretary, John Tonitto (1987 – 2012) so 2018 was the 30th NavShield.

A major change occurred in 2001 when S&R became a fixed membership squad since it was no longer acceptable to ‘just’ callout club bushwalkers.  S&R incorporated as “Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad” (BWRS – later to become BSAR) to formalise its training and member skills through CBT (Competency Based Training).  BWRS separated from “Federation” with the author its first President.

Overtime, remote area search and rescue has changed further.  In 2018, after much consideration, BSAR reluctantly left the VRA and moved to NSW SES (from 1 May) as a better place to fulfil this role.

Within SES the most senior person in SES BSAR now is its Controller, currently Paul Campbell-Allen.

Since 1936 BSAR has been involved in many incidents occasionally multiday.  Some high profile searches have included an injured person below Narrow Neck, near Katoomba (1949), schoolgirls Monica Schofield (1963) & Vicki Barton (1969), Scout Leader lost in the flooded Shoalhaven River (1977), Trudie Adams (1978 – see 2018 ABC TV investigation), three young men lost in Kangaroo Valley (1987), lost plane and pilots at Kanangra Walls (1993), lost plane in Barrington Tops (1981; an ongoing mystery), David Iredale, near Mt Solitary of the Blue Mtns (2006), deceased person on Mt Cloudmaker (2007 – see VRA Journal Volume 2.3) and Sevak Simonian at Kanangra Walls (2014)

Technology has improved outdoors safety.  The latest field radios can give continuous GPS location of BSAR search teams.  Mobile phones now have better coverage and distress beacons (PLB and EPIRB) can send an emergency signal far more quickly for a person in distress.  However, many people don’t have access to these devices which are yet to be 100% effective.   Experienced ground searchers like SES BSAR are still essential.

Further history of BSAR can be found in a Google drive folder at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1cSOMp9zsdYCFG7qbtHrrSQ2-i36U64Pz

Keith Maxwell

President BSAR

Special Award for bushwalking

This is a call to member clubs of Bushwalking NSW to nominate an outstanding bushwalker(s) from their club as a potential recipient of this special award of Bushwalking NSW.  This award is intended to also raise the profile of that great outdoors activity; bushwalking.

The CHARDON AWARD is intended to recognise particular bushwalkers who have made an exceptional contribution to the bushwalking movement.  It is named after Harold Chardon who was the foundation Secretary, in 1932, for “Federation” now known as Bushwalking NSW (BNSW).

CRITERIA:  An award to a bushwalker who has made an outstanding contribution, over a number of years, to the NSW and ACT bushwalking movement; hence it must be more than service to just one club of Bushwalking NSW.  Deceased members should not be excluded.

The award was first offered in 2017 to Dodie Green of Yarrawood Bushwalking Club and the late Wilf Hilder.

In 2018 the recipients were David Noble of Sydney University Bushwalking Club (SUBW) plus the late Gordon Lee.

NOMINATIONS:  Please forward the nomination from your Club for the Chardon Award to the President of Bushwalking NSW, Alex Allchin at president@bushwalkingnsw.org.au

Keith Maxwell.

Battery Testing for torches

Should a small battery tester be considered an essential item of bushwalking equipment?  Modern LED torches just keep getting better and better.  Battery technology has also gone forward in leaps and bounds with various types that seem to last forever and ever – “best before 20xx”.

My first bushwalking torches used incandescent light bulbs that were miniature versions of house light globes.  Like house globes, torch globes had a limited life span so the folklore was always to carry a spare globe.  But LED lights are so much brighter from a lamp with an almost infinite life span plus they keep getting better and better.  A little while ago the switch on a 100 Lumen head torch failed.  The replacement torch under warranty was 160 Lumens.  Same model just a few months apart.

Our early torch batteries were the ‘red’ carbon batteries.  The Zinc case formed part of the electrical reaction.  They would self-discharge in a short time (go flat) often leaving a corrosive mess.  The batteries were not very powerful so torches had to be big to hold “C” or “D” (large batteries).  Now, alkaline “AA” and “AAA” batteries can be purchased in multi packs.  Even better types of battery are available or your choice of rechargeable battery.

Thus, it is easy to keep a light, compact, bright headlight torch that uses small “AAA” batteries at the bottom of the day pack ‘just in case’ – no wandering in the dark from an unexpected delay.

However, since batteries last so long it is easy to forget to check them.  Most LED torches have a system of still giving out light as the batteries progressively fail.  Corrosion can still eventually happen.  So, you turn on your torch in a bright room and you have light but how good is it really?

Such a torch let us down recently at a disused, open access railway tunnel at Helensburgh.  This amazing long single-track tunnel was brick lined for reinforcement.  The current double track railway through the mountainous terrain has by passed this tunnel.  It was dark enough to have impressive glow worms.

Fortunately, a dud torch was not a problem as our group had all taken spare torches.  Later at home, I found corrosion had started on one battery.  My battery tester indicated that the other batteries were also on the way out.

When did you last properly check your emergency torch?  Importantly, when will be your next check?  Over time I have seen a range of different battery testers with one thing in common.  They were all cheap.  There is no reason not to have a battery tester so you can be sure your emergency torch won’t let you down.

Keith Maxwell.

Blue Mountains Mystery

The Blue Mountains holds many mysteries, but one is unusual.  Among the mysteries are two planes and a memorial plaque.  The Blue Mountains have claimed many planes but mostly their crash time AND location is known.  Aeroplane Hill in the Blue Labyrinth outside Hazelbrook is the crash site of a then new RAAF Wirraway fighter from a group of four being relocated on 1 August 1940.  More recently, in 1993 Bushwalkers Search and Rescue (now Bush Search and Rescue NSW) helped find (deceased) the pilot and passenger from a Cessna that disappeared over the earlier October Long Weekend.  CMW bushwalker, Brian Walker saw the wreck on a ridge across a deep valley off the Boyd Plateau (near Kanangra Walls).  So, the time AND location of these crash sites are known.

BUT, two planes remain as a mystery.  WHEN they crashed is known but their location is NOT known.  The United States Marine Corps will be eternally grateful to anyone who could locate the wreck of a Dragon Rapide biplane freighter (and its passengers).  Surprisingly, many of these planes were still constructed in WWII and continued in service post WWII.  On 17 April 1943 two US Marines were passengers on a Dragon that was seen to be in trouble in the lower Blue Mountains.  Again, on 22 October 1954 Max Hazelton came back from the dead when he walked into a Post Office now covered by water of Warragamba Dam.  He had survived a crash and a six day walk from the Kanangra Walls area.  Max later established the regional Hazelton Airlines.  In 2014 Dick Smith and Max unsuccessfully tried to locate his crash site.  Thus, the time BUT not the location of these aircraft crashes is known.

What about a different mystery where the LOCATION is known but NOT when and why??  The location of a memorial to a WWII Battalion is known but little else.

Splendour Rock at the southern end of Mt Dingo in the Megalong Valley is an outstanding location to remember bushwalkers who died in the armed services of WWII.  From Sydney Bush Walkers (SBW) records we know the names of the first bushwalkers to see this site and when its fabulous memorial was installed in 1948.  “The Bushwalker” archives at www.bushwalkingnsw.org.au describe the dedication service, led by Paddy Pallin, on ANZAC Day 1948.  For many recent years there has been a simple memorial service each ANZAC Day at Splendour Rock.  All bushwalkers should consider attending this moving service with its dry overnight camp at least once.

So, not only do we know the location and time of dedication of the Splendour Rock plaque but the names of the fallen bushwalkers we remember each year.  In 2014 the NSW State Library eagerly accepted the nomination, by the author, of Splendour Rock for their register of NSW War Memorials; see www.warmemorialsregister.nsw.gov.au/content/bushwalkers-war-memorial-splendour-rock

Very few at Splendour Rock would know where to look for a much smaller memorial to 2/17th Battalion of the WWII A.I.F.  (The ‘second’ Australian Imperial Force; A.I.F. was the Australian Army of WWII).  Why was this plaque installed to remember “MATES” of just one of many battalions of one of several Divisions raised in WWII?  Information from the Australian War Memorial (AWM) shows that during WWII the size of a battalion was modified but was still less than 800 men.

Just to the west of Splendour Rock is a small south facing wall.  Location for this plaque must have been more important than access as you need to scramble over a large boulder then look up.  The plaque is above your natural eye height.  Who were the “MATES”?  Some only or all the infantrymen of this particular Battalion?  Author, Michael Keats is more than 90% certain that bushwalking historian, Wilf Hilder (deceased) told him that Gordon Broom installed this plaque.  Now, from National Australian Archives we know a Gordon Broome served in the 2/17th Battalion.  Much later he was a member of Sydney Bush Walkers (SBW).

Thus, here is the mystery.  We know the location of a memorial plaque to ‘MATES’ possibly installed by Gordon Broome BUT not when and why.  Since it is near the Splendour Rock plaque, which was dedicated in 1948, this ‘MATES’ plaque should be post 1948.  Many lines of inquiry have failed to provide further information.

SBW records cannot offer any further information.  The family are not keen to be contacted.  The 2/17th Battalion Association (BA) is mostly made up of ex-servicemen post WWII who trained prior to disbanding the Battalion in 1946.  The few very old hands still alive from WWII cannot help with this mystery.

Wilf Hilder knew much about the Blue Mountains, but we can no longer ask him.  An important logbook would seem to have been lost in a fire of Paddy Pallin’s shop around 1970.  An entry from a 1958 logbook in the NSW State Library mentions that an earlier logbook was passed onto Paddy Pallin.  The Paddy Pallin archives have no mention of this ‘MATES’ plaque.  Bushwalking NSW has incomplete records of old “Bushwalker” annuals / magazines on their website.  Equally, there seem to be no records of the names of the 140 bushwalkers who attended the 1948 dedication.

However, Gordon’s name does appear many times in campaigns from North Africa to New Guinea of the official history of the 2/17th Battalion (plus a privately published history of “B” Company).  He did not escape injury being wounded during close combat in New Guinea.  Is Gordon remembering the ‘MATES’ who helped him survive but also mindful of other mates who could not be helped?

For many years post WWII Gordon was active in the BA social sub-committee.  In 1953 he also joined a sub-committee to add a further memorial to those of the 17th Battalion (from WWI) at St Thomas Church, North Sydney.  Eventually in 1956 a plaque was installed with the words; “IN MEMORY OF THOSE MEMBERS OF 2/17th INFANTRY BATTALION WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES 1939.1945″.  The BA still have a service of remembrance each year on the Sunday before ANZAC Day.   Could the “MATES” plaque at Splendour Rock have also been installed around this time?

So, why is this “MATES” plaque at this particular orientation?  Small trees have now grown up but it would seem that the plaque has been placed, up high, to follow the sun from sunrise to sunset of “The Ode”, “… At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them…”

Can we be sure of any emblems on this plaque?  There can be no doubt that the shallow “T” in the top centre is the ‘T for Tobruk’ award that can only be shown by Battalions who took part in this terrible siege of 1941 in North Africa.  (The encircled troops still took the fight up to the German “Afrika Korps”.  The repulse of the Easter 1941 attack may have been the first defeat of a ‘blitzkrieg’ attack.)

The importance of the diamond emblems can only be guessed at since the logic of Gordon Broome remains unknown.  While the colours must have been very deliberately chosen there are two possible explanations.  Information from the AWM suggests that the black over green are the colours of the (WWI) 17th Battalion while brown over red applied to the (WWI) 23rd Battalion.  Now, both the 2/17th and 2/23rd Battalions were part of the Tobruk siege but why mention the 2/23rd when records also show close liaison between the 2/17th and 2/13rd Battalions in this siege.  OR do the diamonds apply to liaison between battalions in the later New Guinea campaign?

An alternative suggestion from a member of the BA is that the 2/17th Battalion used the black over green diamond until they sailed to North Africa when the brown over red diamond was adopted.  The problem is that battalion diamonds from WWII have a narrow grey border.  Either way this plaque would have required some planning and expense.  There is no maker’s mark on this plaque.  The high position of this plague at Splendour Rock suggests that its installation may have required two or more bushwalkers.  Perhaps the mystery is a deliberate act so we should just remember the many ‘MATES’ of the 2 A.I.F. who did not return.

So, the mystery at Splendour Rock seems to endure as on another ANZAC morn the sun slowly rises again over the distant Kings Tableland to stab the valleys with shafts of sunlight.  Cloud hides the water of Lake Burragorang.  The memorial calls us to remember the fallen but leaves us to seek out their names.  The same sun starts to light up the ‘MATES’ plaque; lest we forget.  Does it matter that we don’t understand the full mystery?  The plaque was not put there for you or me but by fellow mates.  You should, like the author, now seek out this “MATES” plaque each time you visit Splendour Rock to stand in silent respect and wonder at the strength of friendship plus dedication required to remember ‘MATES’ at this remote location.

 

Keith Maxwell.

Be extra snake aware this summer

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) of 31 December 2018 has a worrying report of two deaths from Tiger Snake bite.  Antivenom was administered but it would seem that the dose was insufficient to counteract the snake venom.  The SMH article suggests that there may be disagreement within the medical profession regarding the guidelines for the correct dose of antivenom; just how much antivenom is an  appropriate dose of the latest type of antivenom.  However, there is a call for more research in this matter that has been echoed by the Victorian Coroner.

Any snake bite victim needs to seen promptly by medical services.  Despite this SMH report death from snake bite is now rare with modern antivenom.

Now since snakes are more likely to be active in the recent warm weather bushwalkers need to be more vigilant than usual and consider protective measures such as wearing gaiters or long trousers.  As always, it is better to never get bitten but never forget your First Aid training for the treatment of snake bite.  The necessary broad bandage needs to be easily accessible such as near the top of your rucksack.

A recent post from the Royal Flying Doctor at https://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/news/flying-doctor-issues-new-snakebite-advice/ contains excellent advise for treatment of snake bite.

Keith Maxwell.

Bushwalkers help in cold case

Teenager, Trudie Adams went missing in 1978 while hitch hiking home in the Northern Beaches area.  Bush Search and Rescue NSW (BSAR) took part in the subsequent NSW Police investigation of this disappearance.

On Tuesday evening 30 October ABC TV aired a program on missing person, Trudie Adams.  At that time none of our members wore any style of uniform, even the Committee.  So Bushwalkers Search and Rescue (full name then was the ‘Search and Rescue Section of the NSW Federation of Bushwalking Clubs’ now BSAR) was often just mentioned as among the ‘volunteers’.  The TV program aired a lot of archival news footage but nothing of BSAR members.  The NSW Police uniform was very different to now.

BSAR rescheduled a training weekend for the search.  Walkers went home each night.  Sunday morning had a particularly fierce frost.  The area was very different to now.  An oval (now gone) at the junction of Mona Vale Road and the Forest Way was the search command base.  Mona Vale Road was just one lane each way except for a long slip lane from the Forest Way towards Mona Vale.

Long stretches either side of Mona Vale were searched.  Among the ‘finds’ was a pile of Playboy magazines.  We could only guess why they were dumped; upcoming marriage?  A dank pool of water was bubbling.  This was from something dead but a pig not a person.  Equally, the Police were interested in a mound from a small grave but it was that of a dog.  Other tracks in the immediate area were also searched.  On Sunday, one searcher noticed a garbage bag under a tree.  The Police got very excited when it turned out to be a sawn off shot gun!  It was promptly collected by the relevant Police Squad.

Later, the family of Trudie Adams sent a hand written thank you note to BSAR.

The past is always another country, especially 1978.  BSAR still had their basic first generation field radio – AM HF.  There are two more TV programs to come about this unsolved disappearance.  Pre program promotion suggests that a murky time of Police corruption may be investigated in the next two weeks.

Bushwalkers Search and Rescue

It is time to explore past history of Bushwalkers Search and Rescue via the web.  Search and rescue in NSW has evolved considerably since Bushwalkers Search and Rescue was established in 1936 as the S & R Section of the NSW Federation of Bushwalking Clubs (now Bushwalking NSW).  In the early days radio communication did not exist and helicopters only came into common use during the 1970s.  The files also provide a snap shot of bushwalking history as equipment and knowledge improved so new areas were explored. Newspaper items are featured.

 

NSW Police and Bushwalkers S&R Search Managers at John Keys search 1977

Highlights in this past history include the first search in 1936; major searches for missing school girls during 1960s; the amazing rescue of Dennis Rittson from Kalang Falls in 1970; 1982, three killed in a sudden flash flood of Claustral Canyon; 1993, the search for crew of a plane crash in the Kanangra Boyd area; numerous reports of Barrington Tops searches over many years for a Cessna lost in 1981 plus much much more.

Unfortunately while there are a number of deaths there are far more successful outcomes.

Bushwalkers S & R has also changed as s & r methods have improved so it is now part of NSW SES as Bush Search and Rescue NSW.

Start exploring at the link below.  (Be amazed!)

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1cSOMp9zsdYCFG7qbtHrrSQ2-i36U64Pz?ogsrc=32

Splendour Rock 2018 – 70 years

Bushwalking NSW President, Alex Allchin, reading the program

This year there was a strong crowd of mid-week walkers present on ANZAC Day to remember the dedication of the Splendour Rock plaque 70 years ago in 1948. Background notes were read out about installing the plaque before the usual simple but of course moving ceremony. The service is roughly timed to have a spectacular climax with sunrise and cloud this year gave us a special sunrise over Kings Tableland.

The author and Bushwalking NSW President (in hat) Alex Allchin both assisted in this ceremony which opened to a welcome to country and concluded with the National Anthem. A bugler played ‘The Last Post’.

Splendour Rock is an outstanding vantage point with around a 220 degree sweep of view that goes well into the distance. It is also hard to tire of the “Wild Dogs” access walk with its mix of forest and rock pass / ups and downs. Overnight near Splendour Rock a little tent village pops up. There is a certain magic in an ANZAC Day visit to Splendour Rock. 2019 could be a good year to sense the magic of this place. Put the date in your diary now.

Keith Maxwell.

Splendour Rock 2018 sunrise

Splendour Rock 70 anniversary

Wednesday 25 April 2018

This will be a special day as it will be 70 years since the bushwalkers who had survived WWII gathered to remember their lost walking mates.  They dedicated a permanent memorial to them with the outstanding sentence “THEIR SPLENDOUR SHALL NEVER FADE”

A simple ceremony will be held in the half-light before sunrise over Kings Table Land and a cloud covered Lake Burragorang.  There is a special atmosphere in the overnight (dry; no water) camp of the 24th on Mt Dingo.

All bushwalkers should visit Splendour Rock at least once since it holds so many bushwalking memories.  The vista more than lives up to its ‘splendour’ name as you see a vast sweep of bushwalking country.  In 1948 the bushwalkers could still remember friends who had pioneered ways to visit so much of this country in overnight trips.

GETTING THERE

Splendour Rock is on the far end Mt Dingo in the Megalong Valley.  It is hard to tire of walking the Wild Dogs with its mix of place names and bushwalking challenges over and around Mt Mouin, Mt Warrigal, Merrimerrigal before finally Mt Dingo.

Bushwalking NSW will be supporting this anniversary.  In 1958 they started a new visitors’ logbook with a special title page.

The BNSW website has more information on these men from a range of clubs (some of which are no more).  See www.bushwalkingnsw.org.au

Now is the time to start planning your 2018 ANZAC Day trip to this place of so much special importance to bushwalking.