Having as a 7 year old child being told stories by my late grandfather of service in WWI, of battles where weapons were frozen, of him carrying wounded onto the beaches for the boats, running under fire with wounded across his shoulders of once being yelled at, “why are you carrying that”, only to find that the patient upon his shoulders had been hit a second time and had no head. I often wondered why his son my uncle Lionel Victor (Vic) Kearns stories of his service in WWII were muffled whispers and never once from his mouth, why he never spoke of his service and why I was sternly advised to not question him of his time. Why as the family story went that each ANZAC day he would lock himself away.
As I grew to a young teenager of around 13 and being obviously at that age a man of the world and full of bravado I asked uncle Vic on one of his rare visits to the bush about his time in the Army. We were on our own and he quietly told me a short story. All I remembered was a story of escaping into the jungle and finding a decomposing goat which he and his mates ate and of rice and rice. No more was I told.
Years later I joined the ADF, RAAMC and spent 15 years as a medic, after which I decided to research my family history upon uncovering military records I was most surprised to find my grandfather Victor Lionel Kearns served as a stretcher bearer with the 7th light horse regiment (under an assumed name John Thomas Kerr) and his son my late Uncle Vic as a medic in the AAMC, coincidence or sub conscious?
Uncle Vic’s records were obtained from NAA and the revelation of his JIA POW slowly started to bring back memories and possibly answered some of my childhood questions. Research into his unit the 2/10th Aust Gen Hosp and other AAMC official diaries provided next to no data. Slowly I uncovered snippets of information and received much appreciated information from Peter Winstanley of www.pows-of-japan.net and Terry Manttan of www.tbrconline.com. Critically this information gave me my most significant clue-Changi, the Burma Tai Railway and L Force.
Mr Google then identified another from the AAMC who served in Changi, the Railway and importantly for me L Force. A book titled Diggers Story by David Barrett and Brian Robertson. I immediately made contact with Brian and told him of my late uncle and a desire to purchase the book. Brian’s reply was immediate and carried a huge surprise, my uncle Vic was a mate of David’s and he was included in Digger’s book. The two were part of the “Filthy Seven” all medics, all Army mates, all incarcerated and all suffering brutality, horrors and hardships. All suffered together and as only army mates do lived for each other, for without mates, you aint!
As an ex army medic myself this book is a fantastic read, this is reality and Diggers story tells the story of army mateship and the will to survive and to never let the bastards win.
Paulatim is the motto of both the AAMC, Australian Army Medical Corps and the latter RAAMC, the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, The filthy seven wore the AAMC badge on their slouch hats I wore the RAAMC badge on mine. Paulatim means little by little and this corps motto fits so well with Diggers Story and their journey.