Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Who was the mystery conscript?

I got this comment last week:

BOAB, My husband served in Vietnam with the son of the then Minister for the Army. This guy was a conscript (no choice there) like the rest in the intake. Did his basic training, corps training, shipped out with everyone else, served his time, came home with the rest. All still mates today.

Another was the son of a wealthy Perth business family, another came from the Northern Beaches, private school rugby player. My boy was the son of a tradesman.

That got me wondering as to who it could be. I made a few calls, including one to retired politician who was in federal parliament during the time in question. He racked his brains trying to figure out who it could be, because from his memory, the kids of all the Ministers were too young to serve.

We are talking about 40 years ago, and memories might not be what they once were. There could also be the complication of a son from a first marriage, and him only knowing the kids from the second marriage.

Conscription ran from 1965 to 1972. During that time, the Ministers for the Army were:

Jim Forbes Liberal Party 1963–1966
Malcolm Fraser Liberal Party 1966–1968
Phillip Lynch Liberal Party 1968–1969
Andrew Peacock Liberal Party 1969–1972

Jim Forbes was born in 1923, so he would have been 40 in 1963. If he started having kids when he was 20, they could have been the right age.

Malcolm Fraser was born in 1930, so he was 36 when he became Minister.

Phillip Lynch was born in 1933, so he was 35 when he took over to portfolio. He had 3 sons, but he would needed to have had the first at age 17 if he is to be a candidate.

Andrew Peacock was born in 1939, making him 30 when he became Minister. I know Peacock was a randy old goat, but to have conceived a kid at 13 is a bit of a stretch.

So we expanded the search a bit, and my political insider tried to remember if any serving MPs at the time had kids in the age bracket for conscription, and he couldn't think of any.

The mystery deepens. He could have been the younger brother of the Minister - I've known families where there is an age gap of 30 years or so between the youngest and oldest siblings. I went to uni with a woman who had enormous gap between herself and her older sisters. Her eldest sister had kids who were older than she was - an aunty younger than her nephews and neices.

Still, this one has got me beat. More information required.


1735099 said...

Check this -
You can narrow it down to Army, as that was the only arm involving conscripts. From there, look for second digit in the number. I understand "7" denotes a Nasho. That leaves you with ten names. The first digit indicates state of origin. I believe "1" is Queensland, but I'm not sure of the others.
Good luck.

Boy on a bike said...

Jim Forbes was the member for Barker, which is in SA, and there are two South Australians with the surname of Forbes. One was in 3RAR and the other was a tanker. They were born in 1948-49, when Jim would have been 26. However, they both served in 1971, when Jim had moved on to Minister for Health and then Minister for Immigration.

It fits - except that he had been the Minister for the Army, not was the Minister for the Army at that time.

Close enough for me.

Anonymous said...

Allan Fairhall, son of Sir Allan Fairhall. Menzies govt.

Anonymous said...

From anonymous again,

I should also say that |Allan and Normie Rowe were two people who apparently never had a shared birthday in Vietnam, because they were allegedly sent, not conscripted.

Allan is a fine representative of VVs, and does great work for Legacy.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous apologises... My husband says it's ALLEN not Allan, and his dad was Defense Minister, after also being Army Minister.

They served together in Vietnam, and worked together for a time in business back here in Australa.

They both still do work for Vietnam Vet causes.

BlueyM said...

As a side issue, Normie Rowe was lawfully conscripted.
His birth date was not drawn out of the barrel for his age cohort because he was living outside Australia. His date came up in a supplementary draw, and he either "won" or "lost" depending on your point of view about conscription and the Vietnam War.
It could be argued that Mr Rowe would have joined the legions of forgotten pop stars had he not gone to Vietnam.

He also works hard for, and is well respected by, Vietnam veterans.