Our Banner Story

The following set of correspondence originated from various conversations/emails as old Locators are prone to get themselves involved in.

However, what started out to be a general discussion on the origin of  “The Dragon” ends up with a truly wonderful outcome and  a great story by Peter Summers...

Our Banner story... (E&E’s September, 2010)

Ed must have the strangest sense of humour, because he was highly entertained, once again, by emails being sent in rapid succession about a very passionate subject on a Friday arvo...

“Dicko just some more history on the Lung Dragon on our Banner, Jeff Bassford, Merv (Baldie) Nairn, Ged Carroll & John (forgot last name) he was an Arts Graphic Designer that made the banner up for the 1987 Welcome Home Parade. It had nothing to do with the Locating Association. John Posener wanted to borrow it for a Function in Brisbane and since then it has been kept in the Museum at North Fort, It doesn’t belong to the Association it belongs to all Locators. Hope this helps the cause. George Lane.”

...Ed replies...

“George, this is good stuff - Al and Kanga will be salivating!!
Can you chase Merv and Ged for any more details re Peter Summers and Jeff Bassford? Paul.”

 ...George gets back with...
“Dicko, Have done some checking on the design of our Banner and I am pretty sure that Jeff Bassford had a lot to do with it. He lives on the South Coast Somewhere around Mollymook, Ulladulla way.

I will try to track down Jeff Bassford. Have been in contact with Merv and Ged, we were in same Intake in 1965 – you could say were pretty close. The Banner was made in Petersham. The Banner on Anzac Day used to be brought by either Jim Fitzgerald or Merv Nairn. They then took it home and made sure it was there the next year; Then John Posener got his hands on it. I will continue my search. The 131 Banner was Created by the Association but not the one with the Lung Dragon on it. George.”

...then Ed chimes in once more just to keep the brew bubbling...

“George, Your latest to try to chase down John Bassford through Merv and Ged is great. We'll wait with collective bated breathes. Paul”

 ...but now comes the piece de résistance form Ernie Newbold, which absolutely broke me up... 
“Yes George,

  I agree Jeff Bassford (2792419- SVN 29 APR 1970 to 14 APR 1971) was one of the main organisers of the earlier Det 131 association. He contacted a number of former locators and was instrumental in organising the banner and lapel badges and recruitment for the association. I recall that he may have lived in Western Sydney at that time but have not seen him at the Sydney Anzac march for a long time.

When the banner appeared at the march for the first time it had a spelling error in the Latin inscription below the cannon, it read QUO PAS instead of QUO FAS. The error was corrected prior to the banner's next appearance.

Regards, Ernie.”

Rough Translation: First banner - Ubique Quo Pas et Gloria Ducunt = Anywhere Where PEACE And Glory Leads

                 Current Banner – Ubique Quo Fas et Gloria Ducunt = Anywhere Where WHICH IS RIGHT And Glory Leads

Ed – At least the first version didn’t say something that he could have been arrested for, or could have started the war again!

 ...However, Ed had to respond (fairdinkum, I can’t help myself)...

You're not one to be outdone - thanks as usual for that extra bit.
OK, I'm now getting serious - I believe that we need to go the extra metre and find as much as possible about the banner incl John Bassford, before he gets lost like Ron Webb and the Dragon piece.
It's our heritage stuff and it should be told for posterity and archived.
I really love the bit about the misspelt Latin - crikey I have trouble with English! That is so bloody good! Allen and Kanga will have to change their underwear!!
Where do we go from here? Paul”

...it was continued...and look what it produced...below is an absolute highlight which was sent in by Peter Summers, who explains pretty fastidiously what happened not only to bring “our dragon” Banner to life back in 1986, but an insight to a bunch of ordinary bloke’s passion about comradeship which they held on to very dearly and still do...

 Det 131 Div Loc Bty

Reunion and Dragon Banner 1987

 6th  September 2010

 “Dear Paul,

Please find below a brief history of the Dragon Banner, The Menz Club Portrait, The 1987 131 Battery / Gun Batteries and Regiments re union at North Head and the origin of the 131 Battery Association.

 The Beginning

The committee photo was taken at North Head at the reunion and is from the left - Merv Nairn 1966, Peter Summers 1970, Kevin Browning 1970 and Jeff Bassford 1970.

After Anzac day 1986 I got together with Jeff Bassford for a two family gathering. During the afternoon we discussed the idea of a battery reunion of blokes who were in Vietnam at the same time as ourselves. We were both disillusioned by going to Anzac Day parades and not finding anyone we knew from the Battery at the time we served. We also discussed the idea of marching under our own banner instead of the post-1945 Artillery.

One thing led to another and we met at Jeff’s house on a Sunday to plan out how we would find everyone, as there was no Association then. The only thing we had was my South Vietnamese Flag, which all the boys had signed, plus our photo albums. The trouble was that only half the boys put any addresses on them. Even these addresses were suspect as they were often family addresses or the blokes had moved quite often in the last 19 years. On this first meeting a truly funny incident occurred that showed us how much you can get immersed in a situation and lose touch with reality. We had been looking at the flag for about 2 hours recalling names and incidents before we opened the photo albums. As we got to a group photo I remarked quite innocently that, “All these blokes have aged well - they haven’t changed a bit”. It still took me about five minutes after everyone else had erupted in laughter to realise that I was looking at almost 20 year old photos. All the reminiscing had taken me back to that time even though I was well aware that I was in Jeff’s lounge room with our families.

We then started to make contact with the blokes we could track down, as luck would have it each one knew of someone else and it soon gathered steam. As we got rolling some fellows had kept in contact with members from earlier and later tours so the lines started to blur in keeping it to only our tour. By this time the Welcome Home Parade was being floated in earnest and we thought that this would be the ideal time for a reunion.

Jeff and I had served in the later years and we were fortunate to recruit onto the committee Merv Nairn and Jed Carroll who were there in the initial deployment in 1966. We also co-opted Kev Browning who had served in the later tour but had extensive contacts in the Battery. We were now a committee of 5 from different suburbs in Sydney so our meetings were now at the Liverpool RSL club. Things were now taking on a life of their own and we were building up an impressive database.

Interesting things came to life as we looked for the more difficult to find members, and all the different tour years had similar experiences. It was nothing to remember a town that someone came from and find the same name in the phone book. After calling you were often diverted around the extended family including cousins till you found the right bloke. At times you knew so much family history that you could have attended a family reunion and been accepted as part of it. As Jeff’s and my phone numbers were on all communications the wives became a focal point by answering the phone. Jacqui, Jeff’s wife, and Pam, my wife, were answering calls from strange men all the time. Pam remarked that although she only helped with queries etc she felt she knew a lot of these fellas quite well. Often I would get home from work and Pam would fill me in on what so and so had been up to since the war. It was a very exciting time for all of us.

The Reunion

The next thing to address was where to hold the event and a number of venues were suggested. At one of our brainstorming sessions someone suggested that as we had all been through the school of Arty wouldn’t it be a blast to have it there. Never ones to shirk from a challenge Jeff contacted the Commandant and set up a meeting. Jeff and I duly turned up at the school and had a good conversation with the boss and the RSM. We outlined that we would like to use the school to put the boys up and feed us, we were very happy to pay the costs. We also asked if the caterers would like to do a dinner for us after the march again at our cost.

As the School had never been asked for this before there were a lot of protocol issues to be dealt with. We found the School absolutely fabulous to deal with and without their assistance the whole procedure would have been much more difficult. After due course the RSM got back to us and said that the Army and the School thought the idea was so good that they extended it to the Regiments and Batteries as well. We were quite happy with this idea as the more the merrier. The RSM also confirmed that the School would have a welcome BBQ on the Friday night and breakfast the next morning at their expense. He also said that all returned gunners could stay at the School Friday and Saturday nights at no cost as well. They would put up stretchers in the gym and use any rooms not occupied. This was a great help to us.

Next the RSM said the caterers would be happy to cater for our reunion lunch. So, back to North Head for Jeff and me to discuss the details with the cooks. The menu selected and the times numbers etc worked out they worked out a price. We then contacted all the members we had located and advised the arrangements and costs involved and they were all happy to go.

It was incredibly special to regain contact with mates that in a lot of cases you had not seen since you left SVN and the years rolled back quickly. Before the BBQ was over we were all in our twenties again in our heads.

We all caught the ferry to Circular Quay for the march and again back afterwards for our dinner. The food and company was fantastic and the day just rolled on.


The Det 131 Div Loc Association

Everyone was caught up in the idea of keeping in touch so we formed the first version of the Det 131 Div Loc Bty Association. The association was duly formed with the same committee that had organised the reunion and everyone there was now a paid up member. We arranged branches in QLD and VIC with SA and WA having a contact person as well. The idea was that each Anzac Day we would all meet and march together. Decisions that the committee organised before handing over were the Battery banner and the James Menz portrait detailed later. After a period of time the original committee was finding it hard to continue with the commitment. Jeff’s job had suddenly increased fourfold; the company I was with went bankrupt; Kev Browning was on pre-discharge leave from the Army and job hunting; Ged Carroll had a work accident and lost a leg, and Merv Nairn was in the same boat with family and work commitments. The Qld branch was by then well organised and took over the running of the show. They did a great job in keeping in touch with everyone and arranged a reunion/Anzac Day march at the Battery some years after. Again we were put up by the Army in tents and had the Dawn Service and a gunfire breakfast at the Battery. After the March we adjourned back to the Battery and looked over all the new gear they had, plus some from our vintage.

At around this time my family decided on a change of scenery and moved to Canberra. We had a good group for the 93 opening of the Vietnam Memorial from the Detachment. At one stage we had 16 blokes sleeping on the floor of my family room and some of their families scattered throughout the rest of the house. It was a great weekend and memorable, with our teenage boys laughing with their mates as they saw all these old teenagers going into the peep shows and sex shops. Their merriment died up when they spotted their Dads among the crowd.

After this I lost touch with the Association as I was going through a rough patch. As I have been told, but it is only hearsay and not to be taken as fact, the then committee QLD???? Other???? Decided to open up the membership and make it a Locaters Association. This included Reserve Batteries, pre and post Vietnam. This, as I believe, is the current position.

The Banner

 In the Welcome Home Parade we marched under a small sign, as did all the sub-units as part of Artillery. The committee decided that we should have our own banner. As we were all busy people, as usual we decided on the design late and had to chase round to get it done. The costs came from the Association’s funds and the hunt for a printer was on. On my journeys around all the printers, we were lucky that there was an Indian fellow not far from where I lived who ran a banner making and printing shop.  At the time he was very busy but as his father had served with the British Army in WWII he always went to Anzac Day and understood the importance of unit identification. 

For the design we selected it off the Battery plaque.  Artillery colours – red on top blue on bottom; the dragon in the middle; Artillery badge symbol on the left and sub-unit functions on the right.  True to his word, he had the banner finished in the nick of time and I picked it up at 5.30pm on a Thursday for Anzac Day on Friday.  The banner was a big success with all the members who marched, and I believe Jeff Bassford then took charge of the banner and kept it at his place, bringing it in for Anzac Day from then on. 

As I moved to Canberra shortly afterwards, as described earlier, I was unaware that there was, in fact, a second banner made for Sydney.  I was aware that Brisbane had copied our design and made one either the same or similar, but again that’s just hearsay.  You may have to check that with other people.  Photo below.

The James Menz Portrait

At the conclusion of the reunion in 1987 there were some funds left over that weren’t expended on the weekend.  The committee decided that it would be a nice gesture to have a portrait of James Menz, our only member killed in action in Vietnam, commissioned and on completion presented to the Battery.  The name of the OR’s mess at the time was The Jim Menz Memorial Club, and we thought that a portrait of Jim would be appropriate and a good use of the excess funds.  After we communicated this idea to all members, they were extremely pleased with it, and 90% said if we required extra funds they would be very happy to come to the party.    The Battery were very appreciative of the portrait and to the best of my knowledge it still hands in pride of place above the bar in the new regiment’s OR’s mess.

To Conclude:

If you have any queries on what is written above, or anything else pertaining to that period of time, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  Sorry this communication is so long, but as you are researching the history I thought you might find it interesting.  If you get two differing versions of the same thing, pick the one that appears the best as all our memories are hazy at times.  To the best of my recollection the above is exactly as it happened.


Pete Summers (Gunner)