ForeverMissed
Stories

Share a special moment from James's life.

Shared by Timor-Leste Embassy on May 18, 2021
To the family of Jim Truscott,

It is with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of Jim Truscott on 28 April 2021.

On behalf of the Embassy of Timor-Leste, I offer my sincere condolences for the loss of your beloved Jim.

We will never forget his bravery during his time as Special Air Service Regiment Major and Army Commando, and later as he worked side by side with Falintil fighters in Timor-Leste.

I know Jim kept Timor-Leste in his heart until the very end, as he worked to document Timor-Leste’s military history in Tetum and Portuguese, to ensure the stories of the past would never be forgotten by future generations. Jim epitomized the strong bond between our two nations and peoples. I will use his example to continue to pursue the historical memorialization of our military history and the longstanding friendship between Australia and Timor-Leste since WWII. Again, I send my heartfelt sympathies to your family at this difficult time. May he rest in peace.

Yours sincerely
Ines Almeida
Ambassador

Jim my friend

Shared by Bret Fisher on May 17, 2021
I first meet Jim over 15 years ago, he was a friend and a mentor to me on many occasions, from his love of history in particular the Z Special Unit to climbing, scuba diving; any activity that was adventurous. He often provided guidance to me at a University research level and in life. He came across as a hard-noised man however, that was not the Jim I knew he enjoyed a chat and telling a good yarn. When he travelled to the east coast, we normally had coffee or lunch at the Qantas lounge as Jim was always pushed for time. My last conversation with Jim was about my son getting his lance jack in the Army Cadets, Jim was very pleased that was the last picture I shared with Jim.

Our condolences go to his family, with great love and respect.

Jim will be missed by all who knew him.

With Love Fisher Family Sydney

Jim's quotes

Shared by danilo zonta on May 14, 2021
Found on my inbox these quotes from Jim;

- Adventure before Dementia.

- You do not stop climbing from growing old, you grow old from stopping climbing.
- The Art of happiness
It is good to come close to danger and death.
What you see there makes you feel alive.
You must hold into those feelings.
One who grows old without such memories has nothing.
Memories are our souvenirs from a lifetime of forgetfulness.
- The brotherhood of the rope
I look at my bookcase full of interesting mountaineering books, factual discussions of survival, success and failure from all over the globe.
What happened to my climbing ambitions?

Climbing had in previous years opened up a new universe for me.
It involved all of my senses, the touch and feel of the various rock faces, the sounds of the mountains, whether listening for an approaching avalanche or the crunch of crystallized ice and snow underfoot; the smells from the summits as tiny spicules of ice crystals invaded my nasal cavities; blown there by a tormenting wind; the taste of the air; laced with fragrances from the valley flora; and finally the sights of almost indescribable beauty, of a perfect windless warm summit day contrasting with the savagery of an unrelenting storm front tearing its way through an unprepared camp.

The camaraderie that exists between climbers is unimaginable, the brotherhood of the rope binding all who travel together on it with the same set of un-written rules,

Occasionally, there is the opportunity to lay a path where no-one else has previously trodden.
Along with all of these things there is an obsession with what the view will look like from the summit.

These are the reasons that I climb.

- I am keen for a big climbing trip somewhere on my 65th birthday on Wednesday 26 May 2021 Maybe even a new route somewhere !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- I can go anywhere, anytime and anyplace.



WHEN YOU ARE READY - Kokoda PNG 2017 - Jim and Son

Shared by David Truscott on May 14, 2021
WHEN YOU ARE READY

Very Slippery

By
Taipan, Python, Ray Nave and Billy Amuli

Look after David.. and look after each other!” With Colette’s parting words ringing in my head, our son David and I boarded the plane in Perth for the sabbatical that I had to have in the jungle of Papua New Guinea. I knew that I had left this Kokoda Track trip for far too long. Colette was full of wisdom when she had said, “You have always had a project. You have always been project driven.” Now I had one again, after 16 years of gut-sucking business.

Two of my uncles and a second cousin had served in Papua New Guinea in WWII although none of them had fought on the Kokoda Track. My father had also served in the 2nd/25th Battalion for a very short time but he had transferred to the RAAF before the Battalion went to the Middle East and subsequently to Papua New Guinea. Nevertheless though I have walked and paddled the routes taken by many other WWII operations across South East Asia, the Kokoda Track remained to be done.

So I left the computer at home for the first time in 16 years. Robert Kilsby said that to not put myself in my own diary was “really crazy” when you think about it. Walking the Kokoda Track would be a self-test to see if I could walk away from business and do something else. Would a short walk in the Owen Stanley Range clear my brain?
Three flights later we landed at Popondetta on the northern side of the Owen Stanley Ranges to be met by Henry Amuli, the Operations Manager of Kokoda Courage our trekking company, Ray Nave and Billy Amuli, Henry’s nephew, two gentle giants who were to be our erstwhile and ardent travel companions.
David and I had been physically training with heavy back packs walking up and down the many groomed trails leading to the summits of Reabold Hill in Perth but it was insufficient preparation for the six gruelling and wet days which were to come. Getting pack fit for Kokoda aided me in determining what I want to do for the rest of my life. At sixty years of age I realized that business had consumed me and that it would eat me up if I did not do something about it.
We were not your usual trekkers as we had brought our own food and we wanted to carry our own packs like the original Militia 39th Battalion. We had hired the obligatory guide to be legal in the eyes of the Kokoda Track Authority and we had allowed seven days to get to the road head at Ower’s Corner above Port Moresby. So far, so good.
After a few hour’s drive up the hill and across the Kumusi River we arrived at Henry’s trekking camp on the edge of the Kokoda plateau for a round table discussion. While Ray would be our guide, we were urged to take Billy as well; glad we did! So after a good night’s sleep we arose early to check out the small museum and memorials at the original Kokoda station before setting off with 20 kilogram backpacks in the humid jungle, generally following Eora Creek for the Isurava battleground.

Interestingly while the track’s name is associated with Kokoda, the initial delaying battle by an Australian company facing a Japanese battalion lasted only a few hours and in the subsequent advance, Kokoda was taken by the Australians, and unopposed by the Japanese.

The walk soon became a hard slog and I almost pulled a previously sore muscle from the exertion. Ray had opined that the first day would be the hardest and when we got to Deniki village he diplomatically suggested that David and I should offload some of our weight to him and Billy. It was disappointing to depart from our original plan, but there seemed no other alternative and by the time we stopped in the mid- afternoon rain it was with glad resignation that I pondered if we had taken on too much.
The first day had been much tougher than my past battlefield trekking experiences in Borneo, although I had been 20 years younger then and in Borneo we could rely on getting food at each kampung. The rain forest water in PNG tasted good, but it certainly stirred up the body gases from every orifice. There were many local people on the track that day heading back to Kododa village for carrier jobs at the start of the trekking season and the approaching ANZAC Day.
It was fascinating to see Billy nonchalantly walk in bare feet and for Ray to saunter along in an old pair of runners. The torn ligaments from an old rock climbing accident when I had broken my shoulder started to ache and I started popping anti- inflammatory pills well in excess of the recommended dose, which got me through the first long night’s sleep in our jungle hut and the next five days of ripped ligament pain.

Heavy but warm rain fell late afternoon and throughout the night. It stopped briefly before dusk to enable David and I to walk around the monuments at Isurava which were being made ready for ANZAC Day by the local people, including some of Ray’s family who lived a short distance up hill. It was pleasant to meet with several of his brothers and sister and to listen to their banter in their local language. We could also see Billy’s village on a distant hill.

Thanks to Bill James, the military historian and trekker, we were able to use the many images in his Field Guide to the Kokoda Track to roughly determine the battle positions of the Australian and the Japanese troops. Reg Yates who has also walked the track many times had advised us to take the guide book otherwise the trek would become a muddy blur and his advice was 100% correct.
The track largely ‘cross-grains’ the terrain the way that the advancing and withdrawing military forces sought to win or hold ground. Contouring was only for encirclement. While the current route does not always follow the original tracks, it is still possible to gain an appreciation of the vital ground, the approaches to ground of tactical importance and the enfilading and flanking tactics that are required by the attacking force.
For example a current land owner issue prevents trekking access to the long Mission Ridge which connects the lost battlefield above Efogi and Brigade Hill. Very few people have actually trekked the exact routes used by the Australian and Japanese battalions. None the less with a military background and eye for the ground it is possible to gain an intimate understanding of the horrendous conditions under which the Australian forces operated, supported by over 20,000 local people; the ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy’ carriers.
We started before dawn each day. My muscles had not cramped through the first night; we were doing well. Ray and Bill continued to carry about four kilograms of our gear much to my chagrin. The Kunda (cane) suspension bridge at Eora Creek had been washed away during the wet season and it was being rebuilt by some locals under the supervision of a Ranger from the Kokoda Track Authority. Without much ado we were virtually dragged and hand passed across the swollen creek by a chain of strong sure footed locals. I had not done anything quite so invigorating like this for ages. The Ranger even checked our trekking permit!
We passed a large trekking group that had started a day before us. We were not to see any other groups on the track for the remainder of our trip and the isolation was enjoyable. We detoured up a short side ridge to see a small collection of very rusty Japanese hand grenades, signal flares, a helmet and some weapon pits. The artefacts were interesting to see but it was really viewing the fall of the ground and contemplating jungle fighting that intrigued me most.
Most of my military career had been spent on the hoof in the jungle but David had mainly been involved in open and desert warfare in armoured vehicles. A PNG Defence Force helicopter had been flying overhead during the last two days and it was not until after the trip that we realized that they were rehearsing to bring the Australian Prime Minister to Isurava later in the week.
We climbed steadily throughout the second day towards Kokoda Gap and the highest point on the track. Climbing up was okay but the downhill sections were jarring to the knees forcing a strong focus on each foot placement on the often slippery and root covered sections. By now I had completely forgotten about consulting work.
Late in the day it rained heavily as we crossed Eora Creek again, this time on a sturdy single plank bridge to camp in huts at Templeton’s Crossing, a small WWII logistic dump. I stunk from sweat and it was pleasurable to have a full immersion just like one of Bill Tillman’s (famous early Himalayan mountaineer) memorable bathes in the Himalayas with the exception that the water was not cold.
We sat around the fire in the late afternoon watching the rain, and my brain had not been in neutral like this for many years. I realized that any helicopter evacuation in this terrain and weather would be parlous indeed. We had taken Army patrol ration packs which contained far more food than we could possibly eat and so we gave away many of the sweets to local children at every village. My leg calf muscles were sore and I could feel my right knee cap but we slept soundly even with the roar of Eora Creek. At least we could sleep dry unlike the WWII diggers and there was no piquet duty on the gun.
There had been no rain through the second night and on the morning of the second day we quickly climbed Mt Bellamy to subsequently trudge through the swampy moss and pandanus forest. There were still some small arms ammunition cartridges on the ground to be found even with the passing of time and the oozing mud to cover them up. We could only but imagine the running fire fights in 1942 as we trudged through the scenes of desperate fighting some 75 years earlier.
It was hard going as we crossed the Owen Stanley’s. The anti-inflammatory pill upset my guts, but so be it; better than pain in the shoulder from carrying a heavy pack. Ray had developed some blisters on his heel and Billy had cut his finger tip with his own machete during a fall, which we patched up.We stopped at Naduri village for lunch and met two Rangers from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service who were on secondment to the Kokoda Track Authority. I suspected that they would learn more from the locals than what they could impart from their own experiences; maybe it was just a public servant jolly.
There was another equally exciting crossing of the Efogi River in the later afternoon before a stiff climb up small waterfalls to the village with a view and another memorable bathe to rinse our sweat ridden clothes. It was pleasant to chat with the owner of the hut about life and familiar challenges of the cost of sending children to school.
It was a beautiful third morning as the Kokoda Track Authority Rangers weighed Ray’s and Billy’s back packs before we set off on our fourth day. Their pack weights were inside the legal limit for carriers, but the Rangers may have been surprised if they had weighed ours as they assumed that we were standard trekkers.
By mid-morning we were on the grassy Brigade Hill in sunshine and perfect mountain weather with a PNG Defence Force helicopter flying overhead, this time with Prime Minister Turnbull on board. It felt like we were back on military operations. I can recall riding with the Brigade Commander of the 1st Brigade on his Leopard tank on a similar hill at Puckapunyal in Victoria and seeing the rest of the mechanized Brigade deployed around us. Now we could visualize the battle that ensued here as Brigadier Potts and his men, effectively only two battalions, were almost cut off by 6 to 8 Japanese battalions.
As we sat on the knoll about 30 local people walked past heading for carrier work at Kokoda. It was reminiscent of what the carriers in WWII bringing supplies forward and carrying back our wounded, close to the front lines.
It was a hard slog into Menari, quite a large village, where we stopped for lunch of pineapple and a bunch of bananas, looking back down at the sloping post-war airfield. I had sweat sores all over my back and the bit of my gut muscle that occasionally pops out of my stomach lining did so again just as I was bending over to fill a water bottle in a stream. Woe was me, as I pushed the protruding muscle back into my stomach.
The day continued through a slog in the mud and a wade across the Uga River in the rain to our night stop at Agulogo village. There were chooks everywhere and it just felt like one of those dank places in the Himalayas where surely you would get sick. David remarked that he would “go a whiskey,” but alas it was not to be as the roosters crowed out of synch through the night.
We had a delayed start on our fifth day as we waited for the nearby swollen Brown River to drop and for Ray’s mobile phone to recharge at the solar powered, Kokoda Track Authority HF radio shack. I changed my shirt and my jocks hoping that it may do something about the sweat sores on my back. My mind was now completely blank at all times and it has not been like this for years.
It was a racy river crossing this time with the assistance of a local as we bounced sideways and downstream, ‘ferry glide’ style, across the river. I hold these strong and highly capable people in high esteem and they would be well suited as SAS operators.
It was another challenging day of walking through swamps for hours with the inevitable steep hill and mid-afternoon rain followed by a steep descent and river crossing into Ofi village. It was my ‘annus horribilis’ day on the track and I surrendered another two kilograms of weight to Ray at his suggestion. These guys were tough and I was fading. I was physically exhausted at the end of the day with our constantly wet feet taking a beating. Ofi Creek was in flood and it was very noisy, but it did not stop us from having a heavy sleep.
I felt better in the morning on our sixth and final day despite fatigue setting in, and I had overcome my embarrassment of Ray carrying some of my gear. We crossed many creeks through the day, paused at Ioribaiwa village, the furthest point of the Japanese advance and lunched on the definitive Imita Ridge before wading Goldie River at the old WWII flying fox capstone and pushing on up the last hill to Ower’s Corner.
Imita Ridge is like a razor’s edge with some sheer granite cliffs and the defensive positions would have been literally backs to the wall. Interesting we found some old Japanese artefacts potentially from mountain gun ammunition. These may have been abandoned post-war by trekkers; no Japanese soldiers advanced beyond Ioribaiwa.
The Ranger Station at Ower’s Corner was closed on the Saturday afternoon and so Ray telephoned for a minibus from the nearby Sogeri Lodge and we were soon ensconced in the Trade Winds Hotel in Port Moresby just after dusk. I called Colette and Min Moor to cancel the search and rescue watch. With the very wet conditions, the track has been unforgiving and it had tested us all the way to the end.
It was a pleasure to also book Ray and Billy into the hotel with us and to repay the kindness and physical and moral support that they had shown to us. “When you are ready,they would politely say when they urged us to get up and get going, interspersed with the occasional “saddle up”. Ray would say to me “hold my handas he would literally pulled me up a steep step which was “very slippery.” Ray and Billy are ‘salt of the earth’ people, modern day fuzzy wuzzy angels, that David and I have had the pleasure to share a week of our lives with.
On our seventh day, now a rest day in Port Moresby, we visited the some 3,000 graves at Bomana war cemetery. We stopped at Private Bruce Kingsbury’s grave and pondered his charge, at the head of his mates with a Bren gun at Isurava for which he was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross. 625 Australians died in the campaign, while thousands of other men were wounded or fell ill. Many of these men do not have graves and their names are recorded in the rotunda at Bomana.
I have been to Papua New Guinea several times on business but I am very pleased to have walked the modern day Kokoda Track on its 75th anniversary with my son.
Shared by Amy O'Sullivan on May 13, 2021
Some of my favourite childhood memories were visiting Aunty Colette and the gang during the school holidays and the various adventures Jim took us on, piloting the infamous white Tarago! 
As a kid, Jim never treated you like a "mere" child. He spoke to you just the same as the adults. At times, he probably allowed us an independence beyond our years; most likely to Colette's dismay! But when Jim was in charge, you felt a sense of confidence, maturity and a bit of excitement! A particular boat trip he took David and I on off Karratha when I was 12 immediately comes to mind! 
In more recent years, the Truscott family Christmas lunch stands out as really fond memories - listening to Cher and drinking a lot of wine!! I'll miss his cheeky sense of humour, which often resulted in a dig in the ribs from Colette. I'll also miss our many conversations about politics and business, it was always incredibly interesting to hear his personal accounts of both!
Im glad we had the chance to catch up recently. Jim was feverishly taking our details for the family tree, not wanting to let an opportunity pass to capture more information about the extended family. Gosh, what would he think about this tribute site just for him!! 
It really was a privilege to spend time with you Uncle Jim. You've left an impression on many, me included.  
Shared by Martin Hamilton-Smith on May 13, 2021
Jim was good at saving lives. 3 Sqn conducted a major exercise based out of Narrogin around an old WW2 Lancaster Bomber strip during the winter of 1981. I was Sqn Ops Officer and Jim was acting 2IC to Reg Swarbrick. It had been difficult year. We had lost Peter Williamson in a shooting accident down the back in October during team handover and then Ewan Miller, Murray Tonkin and Greg Fry along with 20 others in the Combat Talon crash into Subic Bay during a US hosted SPECWAREX in the Philippines in February.  Many of us had come into the Squadron from being online for GAUNTLET and just wanted to get back into war roles.

Reg and I flew off into the sunset one evening on board the 'in support'  Army Aviation Nomad to visit our vehicle mounted troop who had been raiding Esperance. After thanking the local CFS for providing the target, we headed back late at night to the isolated strip in the Narrogin darkness arriving overhead around 0100hrs. A carefully rehearsed group of soldiers from the parachute packer support group camped at the airfield were to activate the airstrip lighting at the designated time. We arrived overhead; no lights and no response by radio from the airstrip.

It was as black as the ace of spades, no moon and barely a light any where. Nothing could be seen. Attempting a landing meant a certain collision and catastrophe, probable injury or death. As we began to circle above what we hoped was our landing point, the pilot advised he had insufficient fuel on board for a return to Esperance or to Perth or any other 'plan two' airfield. Preparations were made  for an under power emergency forced landing into the scrub below.  Reg and I were less than pleased.

Sqn Ops under canvass at the show-grounds was not responding.  With fuel running low we decided to buzz the HQ at low altitude to attract attention. Fortunately for us the intrepid Jim, who was off duty and asleep had one eye and one ear open. Hearing the low pass and  immediately realising something was amiss, Jim flew out of his hootchy into the ops tent kicking over chairs and tables on his way in. Comms was quickly established. We had only minutes of usable fuel remaining. In the moments which followed we watched from the air as a land rover driven erratically by Jim fishtailed at high speed down the road to the strip a couple of kilometres away. Lanterns and torches hastily thrown in back by Jim were slammed down  in indecent but necessary haste.

Over an hour and a half had transpired. Time and fuel were running out. Flying on little more than the smell of an oily rag the pilot put the Nomad down as soon as enough lights were down to establish the approach bearing and the form of the strip through the darkness below. Jim had made it with no time to spare. Safely landed we could have kissed him; not a pleasant thought.

It turned out that the NCO in charge and his parachute packer team so carefully rehearsed had failed us badly through sheer negligence. Lives had been put at risk and a Court Marshall followed. We never again entrusted anyone other than our own to undertake potentially life critical tasks. And were it not for Jim Truscott things might not have ended well.  Along with Reg Swarbrick  and couple of aircrew I owed him a great deal.


Shared by Brett Chaloner on May 12, 2021
In 1990, the year before I joined Army, I acquired the book of the Bicentennial Expedition to Everest. I devoured the story and the characters with deep interest. Jim was a standout. I recall vividly Sorrell Wilby's portrayal of him ... a little harsh, pretty accurate, and begrudgingly affectionate. I joined the Army the next year and a few years later, I found myself in SASR face to face with this 'legend of my book pages'. He was all I had anticipated and more. Over the next few years, I got to know Jim well as he mentored me and the other junior Officers in his unique way. I had to shoot a dart from a blowpipe at a $20 note to be accepted in to the Mess because of Jim. I reconsidered the value of cars and parachuting in the military because of Jim. I questioned most things I had ever formed an opinion on because of Jim. I felt a little intimidated, assuming that we all had to have a bit of Jim in us to make it in the SAS. He drove in to me that I didn't need any kit or special stuff when climbing or operating. I just had to get on with it and the get the job done. No matter how much time passed, Jim kept me, and many in his network, always making the personal effort when he connected....right up to the day before he departed for his last trip. I will remember all of my engagements with Jim, especially the totally random dinner we had in the midst of Mumbai chaos while I was backpacking after an op, and he was saving companies from themselves. Inspiration is an understatement. 'One of a kind' is simply not unique enough. Jim was Jim ... unapologetically. I am grateful for the lessons in life, leadership and the love of everything that makes you curious. Thanks Mate....BC

2021: Confessions of a Hose Dragger Walking into the Mouth of Hell

Shared by Neil Gledhill on May 10, 2021

Confessions of a Hose Dragger Walking into the Mouth of Hell

It is all about the wind Igor! The wind!

by
Jim Truscott

It felt strange being back in a uniform after a gap of over 20 years in a business suit, and amongst fellow Australians in the Perth hills. Indeed, I had not had an officer of any rank, especially a Lieutenant or a Captain tell me what to do, and how quickly to do it, for a very long period of time! I found that going back to the basics as occurs in religious orders was good for the soul. Although after 20 years in frenetic international business, I was not looking for another career or to climb another hierarchical ladder.



The catastrophic fires on the East Coast in late 2019 was the motivation to join my volunteer bush fire brigade over a year ago in January 2020, but the onset of the pandemic delayed my basic employment training as all courses were pushed back for several months. I now felt like a Sand Groper having permanently lived in Perth for 25 years, but half of my soul was still on the East Coast and several people that I knew there had been directly impacted, although none had lost their houses.

I soon found out that there is a four-year probationary period before I could be placed on an interstate deployment roster, so I mentally signed myself up for five years. By that time, I would be nudging 70 years of age and surely past my use-by-date. I am still physically fit, but I am approaching doddering old age. Some of the days at fire incidents took a toll on my
S-shaped spine from past parachuting and climbing injuries and general body abuse from carrying heavy loads in the mountains. I was to find that you do a lot of standing around on fire grounds in between clambering in and out of fire trucks and dragging hoses. There was a lot of milling during briefings with seemingly more focus on vehicle checks than planning. It was frequently a race to hurry up and wait, just as it was often the case in my first career in the military.



Bushfire brigades are a uniquely Australian institution and they come in all shapes and sizes. I had selected the Darlington Brigade as it was close-by the disused quarries in the Perth hills where I have been rock climbing for over 40 years. However, I soon realized that the 35-40 minutes driving time from my house near City Beach meant that I would probably never make a first alarm, and this time interval eventuality proved to be true quite early during my first bush fire season.

Interestingly I found an ex-libris copy of All Fired Up, A history of Volunteer Bush Fire Brigades in the Shire of Mundaring 1903-2010 in a second-hand bookshop, and I read that the first Fire Control officer for Darlington just after WWII came from the beach side suburb of Cottesloe, although he also had a weekender in the leafy hills around Darlington. Our brigade station is called the Yacht Club by other brigades as when climate change puts Perth under water, it will be at the seaside! One of my friendly crew even calls me a low lander!



I eventually got qualified through weekend courses with wheatbelt farmers and other city-types at the Kalamunda, Brookton, Popanyinning and Mundaring fire stations, and I progressed from hose dragger to become an entry level fire fighter in just five days. I learnt a lot in this short period of time, and I felt a little overwhelmed by some of the pumping gadgetry at first, but with hands-on practice I soon got the hang of most things. Many of the instructors and senior members of the brigades had been doing this work for a long time, but not all could impart their knowledge efficiently with varying degrees of agricultural instructional technique. Being half deaf from blowing up stuff in my past life did not help me either. Even so I could soon espouse the importance of having my feet always in the black, bringing the black with me, and staying away from the dead man zone by constantly self-questioning if I really needed to be there!



Just as it was in the military, I had to learn plenty of anacronyms like doing a PAFTACS report within 15 minutes of arriving on the fire ground. It was just like being ready to execute an emergency assault drill within 15 minutes of arriving at a terrorist stronghold. I learnt to think LACES all of the time, just like the combat appreciation that we continuously did during a close reconnaissance of an enemy location. Heli-attacks have different fire power to what I had been used to, but air intelligence helicopters are much the same.



I found it fascinating that the C130 water bombers cannot fight at night because the retardant is not heavy enough to reach the ground from the mandated flying height. There is a need for heavier water and to be able to bomb low level at night, especially when it does not cool down and when the hot easterly winds from the desert are just as strong as by day. The Germans had top secret heavy water plants in WWII so why can’t we fight 24/7 now? It seems to me that if we want to pass our remaining Jarrah and Marri and Wandoo forests onto our grandchildren, that deliberate burns must be substantially increased and over much larger tracts of land. They are no brainer, even if only small in size, just like our first nation people have done so for thousands of years.



The bush fire season in Western Australia goes from October to April, and as we got ready for our summer of discontent, I participated in several deliberate burns in bush blocks in the foothills around Darlington and in larger shire-controlled areas in the Perth hills, full of ticks, parrot bush, grass trees and kangaroos. This low-risk, build-up helped me to get used to the appliances and fire ground procedures. I was not yet ready to walk into hell, singing ‘Love is a Burning Flame’ but the opportunities would soon come.



On my first deliberate burn, a Lieutenant asked me if I could use a thermal imager but my reply about using it to locate and kill people in my past life was perhaps not what was expected. A few other fire fighters (no names, no pack drill) seemed to offer all manner of advice on extinguishing burning logs bordering on hazing but as new boy I just shut my mouth. It did not compare to the guidance issued by drill sergeants in week one at Duntroon in 1975!



With my past background on operations with the SAS and in Crisis Management in global board rooms in international business I was able to make some interesting observations on how people manage stress and the leadership of small teams, the issuing of instructions and the passage of situation reports. However, I had to hold back on several occasions from making comment and offering advice until I had mastered the basics of my new trade like deflating and inflating tyres, replacing valves, and operating pumps!



It was a little scary as a front seat passenger in an appliance while driving under lights and sirens for the first time on a freeway to an incident in the Darling Range well north of Perth. The second occasion with four of our brigade vehicles in a convoy hurtling down a closed freeway jam packed with cars to another incident south of Perth was like in the movies about Californian wildfires. After having gone to five low risk incidents in the space of a month, I asked to be given training in driving a fire truck so that I could get a licence. There seemed to more risk in driving a truck to and from a fire ground than fighting the fire itself. I got the wrong truck driving learners permit as I only needed a medium rigid and not a heavy licence, but it was no big deal as training would not happen until the fire season was over.



This incident where multiple brigades were trying to contain a still out-of-control fire in bush around Perth’s southern and spread-out suburbs caused me to reflect back on my first day in Dili-on-fire, 22 years ago in East Timor. As the point Indonesian-speaking linguist, I was the first SAS Operator to get out of the C130 Hercules while we were doing a combat offload (manual drag out) of a huge crate of small arms ammunition in case O.K. Corral happened on the tarmac with the Indonesian air force troops. I had to yell a ‘friendly we are here to help’ in my Bahasa Indonesia above the screaming, forward-thrusting C130 engine noise at the senior Indonesian Army officer to tell him that our gun fighters were concurrently streaming out the back of the Hercules towards the Indonesian observation posts around the airfield; and not to get in our way, with a follow-on fleet of about twenty C130 aircraft carrying a battalion of infantry in the skies over the Timor Sea and inbound Dili. I had not anticipated the incredible noise of our arrival!



Within minutes, I and a signaller had purloined an Indonesian army truck and we simply drove through the burning and trashed town resembling Dante’s inferno to get to the heliport so we could get a firm foot on the ground, and quite literally one foot in the black. We had to get our Operators into the United Nations compound to hotwire their cars and give us some of our own mobility around the chaotic city complete with roaming militia. I think that the young Indonesian army truck driver thought that I was going to kill him.



It was déjà vu on the fire ground racing across 100-acre bush blocks south of Perth. Our fire trucks were lined up and poised in case the fire jumped the freeway, with a C130 water bomber, two heli-attacks, a fixed wing bomber and an air-intelligence plane overhead, the ever-present smell of pungent smoke, opaque vision, some burning flying embers and trucks and heavy machinery from multiple groups all over the place, not quite sure which appliance belonged to which bushfire brigade and with only a vague idea of where the advancing fire line was apart from the orange glow! I learnt that most firefighting is actually done from the air, or by machinery building fire breaks on the ground, with the fire trucks simply there to protect the earthmoving machines and to evade water bombs from the air.



Then a substantial multi-fire-brigade callout commenced on the first day of February which coincided with day one of a five-day COVID lockdown. All told, some 153 firefighting appliances from 60 volunteer brigades, 21 career fire rescue stations and 53 SES vehicles participated. 86 houses were destroyed in what ended up being labelled a catastrophic event. It was the most destructive bushfire to threated Perth in decades. When the first afternoon crew returned to our brigade station and we took over, the shift briefing felt like we were going into Baghdad to pull out a downed pilot.







I ended up doing five-night shifts in a row plus a back-to-back day shift, until post cyclonic rain headed south and set in. It felt good to be back on an operational tempo, although not quite the same as tracking a wounded and still bleeding terrorist through a man-height, maize field in Rhodesia in my youth. I drove a light tanker around the hilly fire ground for the first time on one shift and I was the log keeper to a sector commander in another, seeing the fire level of fire command in action. I felt that I had earned my ‘burn wings’ by the end of the week. I found that you do not learn much in the back seat of a heavy tanker, and that you have to be in the front left-hand seat to be part of the decision making, mostly on radio. While I felt like I had been blooded, I needed to gain much more experience in active firefighting as I only defended a housing property twice, and both events had already been commenced by other units.



I certainly learnt a lot in that grim week. Our crew got lost on a bush track one night chasing an orange glow as we were too reliant on technology and we needed to be navigating carefully by hard maps. Some of the maps were badly out of date, and just as war is often fought at the junction of four maps, it was interesting to find out that the maps that are issued as part of incident action plans are designed for briefings up the chain of command and not for frontline use down. Key roads were often not highlighted and the hard copy maps in our fire trucks did not equate to the computer screens used by divisional commanders in their vehicles, especially when it came to determining sector boundaries. I found it fascinating that the younger fire fighters and some older ones seemed totally reliant on their mobile phones to navigate!



On another shift, a sector commander was clearly not navigating as we followed him down a hazardous road with a lapping fire. We experienced total loss of radio and mobile phone communications in this sector as well. It did not help that the driver beside me was bit skittish in the face of possible danger. Another sector commander who seemed to have no control over his units said to us at a briefing to just find ourselves a property and defend it!



Interestingly I observed a sector commander sleeping on task in their fire truck and I heard on the radio that an incident control post also went to sleep without alerting the State control centre. Both lapses were dismissible offences in my first career. Briefings at crew, brigade, sector, divisional and incident control were of a variable standard and I quickly learnt that you have to ask questions in order to get all necessary information. Do not expect to be told when you are tail-end Charlie!







All of this observed from a hose dragger’s view, there seemed to be a reasonably cohesive command structure albeit with some control and communications confusion particularly at night. Most importantly I was to observe a high level of motivation and commitment which is of immense value in any organization. Solid training helps, but the motivation behind it drives volunteering. With another two months to go before the end of the bush fire season, there are likely some more highlights and hiccups to come. We shall see what hot and gusty easterly winds the weather god brings to Perth before Easter.

East Timor 99 Jim, TMR & Bruce P

Shared by BRUCE PARKER on May 6, 2021
East Timor 99
Shared by Jim Wallace on May 6, 2021
I first met Jim when I was the Adjutant at Duntroon and he a cadet. He marched into the office one day and said that the Supervising Officer for Cross Country Skiing had fallen ill and couldn’t take them up the snow that weekend - would I fill in.  I wasn’t a skier of any type, but he assured me there were some lessons before they planned a short ski trip.  Not wanting to see them have to miss the trip, I agreed.  We got there and I did the lessons and then went to the RV for the “short ski trip” to find myself at the start of the Australian Cross Country Skiing Championships - entered by Jim!

Tribute to Jim

Shared by BRUCE PARKER on May 6, 2021
Collette and Family,
Jim left us all the poorer for his passing one of the very best of the best.
I would have followed him any where. Unconventional soldier of the first order husband, father and a great mate. Rest in peace Jim you will live on indefinitely lest we forget.

Bruce commented "I took this photo of TMR and Jim in Ailieu which is about one hour south of Dili . It was where Falintil were in voluntary cantonment in 1999 . Jim presented this picture to TMR when we were hosted at his home for dinner on the bike ride we did in Timor Leste together with Jim, Dick Pelling, Mark Preston, Keith and Barry Hughes and myself . Collette was riding shotgun in the back up 4WD her nursing skills came in handy as all, with the exception of Marc and Barry, fell off . Bruce. P.

Dead Man's Food

Shared by Rick Moor on May 4, 2021

In December 1978 Jim, I and the rest of the AAA crew headed to the Southern Alps for our annual adventures in the sun. This time however Jim had decided to apprentice the new climbers to experienced teams rather than have them attend a mountaineering course - not a bad idea, in theory at least, given a Staff Cadet’s meagre pay. Now experience is a relative term: Jim had some; I had a little; Dave Evans, our apprentice, had none.  What could possibly go wrong? Well to start with the weather in Mt Cook village was atrocious. So we went to the store purchased our rations, some that is, but as it transpired not enough, then headed for the west coast. This involved a crossing by foot of the Copland Pass. Loaded to the gunnels we trudged up the Hooker Glacier then ascended the scree and rock ridge, again a relative term – dangerous unstable rubble - to the Copland Shelter. After a bracing night we awoke to a wild storm and white out conditions. Not a problem. We simply continued uphill until it was no more then crossed the range. For some reason the guide book didn’t mention the need to abseil down a series of ice cliffs. And no one else from that era can recall having to do such. I guess the guide was wrong and they were off track. I digress, we then continued in a torrential downpour - how unusual for the west coast of the South Island - to the Welcome Springs. On arrival we plunged straight in, boots packs and all - nothing could get any wetter – and soaked up the warmth. Thankfully the sulphur fumes kept the sand flies at bay. After what seemed an eternity, such was the bliss; we headed to the Westland Highway to catch the 4 o’clock bus to Fox Township. The next day dawned fine so Jim chartered a ski plane to fly us up the Fox Glacier to Pioneer Hut. After a truly spectacular flight we landed at the top of the Albert Glacier and moved to the hut. What a find: unoccupied, isolated, peaceful, at the base of Mt Alack, surrounded by peaks with a view down a series of shimmering glaciers to the verdant west coast and wild Tasman Sea beyond. After unpacking Jim and Dave set off for a quick ascent of Mt Alack – after all it was literally on our doorstep. Things looked good. Then the storms started. After a few days we ran low on food. We were then joined by a small party from Melbourne including Mike Rhineburger – they seemed much better prepared than we were and certainly had a more substantial Christmas lunch – but then it’s not hard to beat a muesli bar. From memory on Boxing Day with hunger pains gnawing at my innards, unable to read another decade old Reader’s Digest, I lay contemplating life and the universe when I heard what sounded like very large rats in the roof cavity. Looking around for Jim and Dave I noticed they were missing. Argh I wondered “what can they be up to”. Looking up I spied a trap door, but try as I might I could not get it to budge – I wonder why. Then the munching and giggling started. They had found the emergency ration stash. Well it was soon no more. Engorged they sheepishly emerged and declared they were ready to conquer all (Dave’s recollections may differ from mine). It was as if that by this act of defiance the mountain gods smiled upon us for we were subsequently blessed with a spell of excellent weather. Over several days we climbed Lendenfeld Peak, Mt Haidinger and I think Mt Haast, had a good look at Douglas Peak and tried Mt Tasman but were defeated by some very large slots (crevasses to the uninitiated) – I blame our slot finder, aka apprentice, aka Dave. Now totally out of food Jim determined that we should again cross the range and make for Plateau Hut. While this sounds straight forward I suspect the high crossing points; Governor Col, Marcel Col and Engineer Col, were and still are seldom used. Certainly as we approached Engineer Col we could see no obvious route. Undeterred we set up an abseil with our one spare sling and descended into the abyss. Fortunately, luckily, as a result of excellent foresight, we landed on a narrow ledge and found an old sling embedded in the ice cliff. Again we set up an abseil and launched ourselves into space. This time no such luck as there was a very large slot at the base of the cliff. Again undeterred we simply swung out from the cliff face and abseiled off the end of the rope. After a short free fall we all managed to land on the edge of the slot then traverse around Mt Dixon, dodge a small slab avalanche and lob into Plateau Hut. Once there we immediately prepared a meal from left over hut food, belonging in this case to a party of Japanese climbers who unfortunately would not be returning, and set about preparing for an ascent of Mt Cook. We woke at midnight to a beautiful starry night, but it just didn’t feel right, maybe it was the dead man’s food or simply bad karma, so we retreated to the hut and descended the Haast Ridge to the Tasman Glacier and stomped back to Mt Cook village. In all we had been in the mountains for a little over two weeks, climbed several out of the way peaks, and had had a grand ole’ time.

Generous with his time

Shared by Trace Wilson on May 3, 2021
Following his 1988 Bicentennial ascent of Mt Everest, Jim took time out of his busy schedule to come and give a slideshow to the coppers in the AFP Rescue and Diving Squads at Weston (Canberra).  

He told of his amazing climb and showed us fascinating slides of the trek and ascent. He was also a big enough man not to hide the fact that he was not one of the two that made the final few metres to the summit. His disappointment in being just metres from the summit, but knowing how to follow all procedures and safety windows (regarding who would summit and who would support) was only vaguely evident in the tone of his voice. He knew his role and didn’t try to pretend anything different. 

His presentation was remarkable and remains a fond memory. 
RIP Jim

Buck's Party

Shared by Rick Moor on May 3, 2021
Okay you asked for it...... It sounded like a good plan, but in hindsight probably wasn't.  From memory Jim, Mike Hindmarsh and I met up at Terry McCullagh and Garry Claridge's house in Wollstonecraft, had a few beers and decided that the best thing to do would be to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  This was long before commercial climbs were a thing and possibly a tad illegal.  Dressed in pink T-shirts featuring a picture of a rock climber with the motto "no mental limits" we headed downtown.  Naturally to deter louts like us there were a series of obstacles to overcome before you could gain access to the stairs on the main girders.  The first was a 10 foot barb wire fence protecting the train line, not a problem.  Then there were the overhead live electric cables, again not really an issue, then once across the tracks it was on to the main girder.  Here we faced an 8 foot spiked gate.  With skill and daring do we breeched this last obstacle and headed to the top.  All was well until we noticed the traffic backed up in both directions and heard to our dismay a call over a loud speaker "come down at once".  Sheepishly we all, bar Garry who hid in a secret bolt hole, headed down where we were promptly arrested by the men in blue, thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, transported to the Rocks Police Station and paraded before the duty constable.  Looking us over he noted our pink T-shirts and apt motto, then declared "what's this no mental limits, more like no bloody brains.  Okay what's the occasion".  We replied "just a buck's party".  "What do you do".  "We are in the Army".  "What unit".  I replied "1 Commando Regiment".  "Well I'm going to report you to the Adjutant".  I again replied "I'm not sure that will do much good....I am the Adjutant".  "Bloody officers - okay get out but you are not to leave the Rocks precinct until you're ready to go home".  With that we adjourned to the pub next door.  The next afternoon Jim and Colette were married just around the corner.

From Army Alpine Association - President Matt Rogerson

Shared by Tim Curtis on May 3, 2021
The Army Alpine Association sadly lost one of its best and most iconic members on 28th April 2021, with the unexpected death of Major Jim Truscott, OAM (Rtd). He was out on an adventure, mountain biking in the NSW bush north of Balranald with fellow AAA stalwarts Rick Moor and Harry Butler. He died suddenly while riding and was unfortunately unable to be revived. His passing leaves both a great sadness and an enormous gap for many across military, business and adventure communities. His loss will be felt by the Army Alpine Association most keenly.
Jim was a founding member of the RMC Mountaineering Club and the AAA. 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. A cursory inspection of the Club’s newsletters and expedition lists from any era of it’s 47 yr history will feature Jim Truscott. His endless energy, great projects and causes and his legendary wordsmithing feature at every turn. 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 a expedition to the remote volcano of the same name.
Jim’s accounts of these adventures were in the finest traditions of mountain writing. His writing was always erudite, often lengthy and sometimes unprintable. As you read of his adventures, as you listened to his stories, you were left enriched by his grasp of military and mountaineering history, giddy in the wake of Jim’s often preposterous ideas and actions, and unsettled by how boring your own mind and life appeared next to his. When I inquired about joining his trip to Irian Jaya, he eyed me suspiciously, and asked only one question: could I climb grade 18 limestone...in the rain.
Jim’s list of achievements in the club is lengthy. He was there at the start, first heading to New Zealand in the mid 1970s. Along with Mike Hindmarsh he made an early ascent of Ball’s Pyramid, after a disastrous and near death attempt to sail to the remote sea stack. In 1981 he, along with David Simpson survived an avalanche at Camp 2 on Ganesh IV (7102 m). David Sloane was tragically 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, only the second 8000 metre peak climbed by an Australian at that stage. Jim was also a member of the successful 1988 Australian Bicentennial Everest Expedition, proving a colorful member of the team. Subsequently, he climbed Nanda Devi East in 1996 on a multi-national expedition with the Indian Army.
He was a voracious rock climber, putting up hundreds of new routes wherever he was based, from the remote WA 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 - I recall getting told to bring a shovel when joining him on one Perth Hills new routing adventure.
Beyond climbing, Jim was an engineer, a writer, doggedly successful businessman and professional soldier. His writing across all these areas makes for a wild ride. 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 or the carefully curated careers of those around him. It was always a joy and terror to be a junior officer within his command or earshot.
Above all, Jim 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. Vale Jim Truscott.
Pic: Jim,  Broad Peak, 1996

Share a story

 
Illustrate your story with a picture, music or video (optional):