His Life

Vale Jim Truscott OAM

Jim Truscott OAM passed away suddenly on the 28th April 2021.  At the time of his death Jim was on an unsupported push bike tour of the Mungo Loop with two close friends.  They were following the footsteps of the Burke and Wills expedition and were approximately 80km north of Balranald nearing the end of their first day’s ride when Jim collapsed.  They’d had a great day, perfect autumn conditions, much friendly banter, enjoying life to the full far from the madding crowd.  Jim passed as he lived – with his boots on, riding into the setting sun, on an adventure.
Jim was well known for his drive, enthusiasm and dogged determination.  He was in many ways a renaissance man – a very professional but unconventional soldier; intrepid and daring adventurer; somewhat reluctant engineer; amateur but respected historian and author; red wine connoisseur; highly successful businessman; and committed community member; but above all son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and friend.   
Jim first served in the Marist Brothers Ash Grove school cadet unit then the Queensland University Regiment before entering the Royal Military College (RMC) Duntroon as a third class cadet in 1975.  He graduated in 1977 and was awarded a BE (Hons) in 1978 (he later completed a BA out of interest).  Jim subsequently served as a Troop Commander in 1 Field Squadron of the 1st Field Engineer Regiment and as an observer with the Commonwealth Monitoring Force in Rhodesia attached to a mixed race field propaganda unit before completing selection and serving as the Operations Officer in 3 SAS Squadron. He along with his Officer Commanding will be long remembered for organising and overseeing “Exercise Biltong Watcher”, an epic in the Northern Territory that even included airstrikes by B52s operating from Guam.  Jim subsequently served as the Garrison Engineer in Newcastle and on the Operations Staff in Field Force Command, Army Headquarters and Headquarters Special Forces.  Following these postings he vowed to never again serve in the “Big Army” or as a “Staff Wally”.  He achieved legendary status as the Officer Commanding 2 Commando Company with his many innovative and realistic exercises often involving short notice call out.  He also served in the Pilbara Regiment as a Surveillance Squadron Commander then in the Northern Territory as a Civil Affairs Officer before returning to as the Operations Officer in SASR.  It is during this last posting that his ingenuity, knowledge and experience came to the fore as he led the regimental planning team for the deployment to the Middle East to enforce the no fly zone, the initial entry by the ADF into East Timor and the counter terrorist support to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.  But above all Jim’s core professional interest lay in Special Warfare.  Hestarred on the Special Warfare Course, taught himself jungle Bahasa Indonesia and studied in detail the activities of the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) during WW2.  He was a known “Friend of Z” and had befriended, supported and interviewed many of the original operatives.  He had also conducted a long distance sea kayak trip from Singapore through the Indonesian archipelago tracing the route of the escaping OP RIMAU party, spent two months walking through the jungles of Borneo retracing the steps of the OP SEMUT operatives and interviewing the few surviving guerrillas and their families and had recently travelled to East Timor to research a battle field guide covering the activities of the Independent Companies and SRD in WW2, TNI and Falantil during the Independence War and finally INTERFET and UNTAET post 1999.  As a Special Forces Officer, Jim was one of the few truly unconventional thinkers, and he pushed and prodded SASR and Commandos toward more advanced capabilities, often with complete disregard to his own career.  A subordinate at the time recounts that it was always a joy and terror to be a junior officer within his command or earshot.
Jim was also a passionate, committed and enthusiastic mountaineer, rock climber and Nordic skier.  As a cadet at Duntroon he was a founding member of the RMC Mountaineering Club, instrumental in the re-establishment of the Army Alpine Association (AAA) and the instigator of the famous RMC August Epic.  He was a fierce and dedicated climber and mountaineer his entire life. Anyone who knew Jim will have a favourite tale of his eccentricities, his at times manic drive and his fiery intellect, his endless energy, great projects and causes and his legendary wordsmithing. He was always driving hard, whether rustling up a team to tackle Carstenz’s Pyramid; signing off on C130 flights for Everest logistics or hitting up Big Ben Pies to sponsor an expedition to the remote volcano of the same name.  Jim’s list of achievements is lengthy. As a mountaineer and climber he first headed to the Southern Alps of New Zealand in December 1974.  He then spent many summers in the 70’s and early 80’s in the Southern Alps.  While recovering from a major injury incurred solo climbing near Majors Creek, Jim made an early ascent of Ball’s Pyramid, this in turn after a disastrous and near death experience attempting to sail to the remote sea stack.  In 1981 hesurvived an avalanche at Camp 2 on Ganesh IV (7102 m) in Nepal.  Tragically Dave Sloane was not so lucky and was swept to his death.  Jim was a member of the successful expedition to Broad Peak (8047 m) in Pakistan in 1986, at that stage only the second 8000 metre peak climbed by an Australian team. Jim was also a member of the successful 1988 Australian Bicentennial Everest Expedition, the second ascent of the mountain by an Australian team and the only ascent of the mountain accomplished without local high altitude porters. He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal and Chief of the Defence Force Commendation for his organising efforts and participation in this activity.  Subsequently, he climbed Aconcagua in Argentina (the highest mountain in the America’s) in 1990, Carstenz Pyramid in Irian Jaya (the highest mountain in South East Asia) in 1991 then Nanda Devi East on a multi-national expedition with the Indian Army in 1996.
He was also a voracious rock climber, putting up hundreds of new rock climbing routeswherever he was based from Kangaroo Point and Frog Buttress in south east Queensland, the Sydney Sea Cliffs and Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Arapiles and the Grampians in Victoria, the remote Western Australia northwest coast, to the Perth Hills and his beloved Southwest. Generations of future climbers will puzzle at his climb names and wonder at his route selection and bolting practices. Jim knew a quality route when he saw it, but didn’t mind putting up the odd scrappy climb – one climbing partner recalls getting told to bring a shovel when joining him on one of his Perth Hills new routing adventures.   Many a climbing partner will recall that it was always prudent to double check Jim’s belay stances and to be wary of his pick of climbs, as the call “your lead” would oft come at an inopportune moment.  They will also recall many a session in the Dugandan, Natimuk and Mt Vic pubs contemplating their failures, celebrating their successes and building Dutch courage for future ventures.  In the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s Jim was also a committed and competitive Nordic skier.  He organised and competed in many Inter-Service events, representing Army on numerous occasions and finishing in the top 30 in NSW state championships several times in the 1980’s.  On one occasion he, along with a friend, skied from Kiandra to Mt Kosciusko in 18 hours.  In 1989 he also led a ski mountaineering trip to Mt Shasta in California.  Jim had in addition to tracing the route of the OP RIMAU operatives conducted several remote sea kayak trips including to the Monte Bello Islands and two attempts to cross the Torres Strait.  He also rafted the Franklin in Tasmania before it became popular.  
Immediately following the Sydney Olympics Jim left the Army and entered business as a crisis management consultant, first with a British multinational company, before setting up his own firm “Truscott Crisis Leaders”.  After a lean start Jim through sheer determination and exceptionally hard work established a very successful consultancy with a clientele that included many of the world’s leading multi-national companies.  His straight forward and sometimes abrupt style was not everyone’s cup of tea but his advice and training was highly valued by many mining and off shore oil and gas companies operating in the remote corners of the world.  Jim was known to cover 10 countries in 7 days, conduct day trips to Singapore and travel to Europe for one day jobs.   His ideas, advice, guidance and training significantly enhanced the emergency response capabilities and safety of many work places around the globe.   
Jim was a prolific writer.  A cursory inspection of professional journals and newsletters will feature Jim Truscott.  Jim’s thoughts on Special Operations published under his nom de guerre “Taipan” while his accounts of his personal adventures not only inspired many but were in the finest traditions of mountain writing.  He was also a prolific reviewer and authored several books including his autobiography “Snakes in the Jungle – Special Operations in War and Business”, an account of OP SEMUT titled “Voices from Borneo – The Japanese War” and a business sales guide titled “Who Dares Sell, Wins - Mastering True Sales in Management”.  At the time of his death he was finalising a detailed “Battlefield Guide of East Timor”.  His writing was always erudite, often lengthy and sometimes unprintable.   As you considered his ideas and read of his adventures, as you listened to his proposals and stories, you were sometimes stunned by his audacity but more often left enriched by his grasp of history, military capabilities, mountain geography and business practices, giddy in the wake of his often preposterous ideas and actions, and unsettled by how boring your own mind and life appeared next to his.
Following the recent sale of his business Jim qualified as a Surf Life Saver and served as a hose man in the Darlington Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade.  He was also actively working with the 2/2nd Commando Company Association in an attempt to have the unit awarded a Unit Citation for Gallantry for their actions as an Independent Company in Timor in 1942 and the HMAS Armidale Association on a project to locate the wreck.
Above all, Jim was a family man, devoted to his wife, children and grandchildren.  He was a man to follow and learn from, both in his words and deeds. You had to be quick to keep up and follow his thinking, but he suffered fools better than he made out, and we are all the better for his friendship and life.   His passing not only brings a great sadness to his family and close friends but leaves an enormous gap for many across military, veteran, business and adventure communities. Vale Jim Truscott, gone but not forgotten.