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The Heuston brothers - Lest we forget


My Uncle Val Heuston enlisted in 1940 and was posted to the Artillery, was sent to Egypt, and trained as an anti-tank gunner. He served overseas until late 1942 when he was one of the Australian soldiers brought back from the desert to help defend Australia from the Japanese who were advancing through the Solomon Islands and overland in New Guinea

Above: Brothers in Arms and Brothers by blood - Val and Eric Heuston His elder brother Eric Heuston also enlisted in 1940 and had various postings in Australia and reached the rank of Corporal by the time Val had returned to Australia. Their mother asked Eric to look after his younger brother, and made him promise that he would see he didn't get killed.At this time in the Australian Army a brother could "Claim" another brother and have him transferred to his unit, so Val "Claimed" his older brother. There was no position for a Corporal in the unit, so Eric dropped his rank to Private and they were posted to 2/1 Aust Tank Attack Regiment in New Guinea. The war was in its final months, and the Japanese had no tanks where they were, so they were sent out as infantry to harass the Japanese soldiers living in the dense jungle. They had been cut off for months and had to live off the land and posed no real threat to anyone, but because the Americans were fighting vicious and costly battles retaking the Islands the Japanese had invaded on their way to attack Australia, it was felt we had to show we were doing our bit.They were sent out on a patrol, and were ambushed by a much larger enemy force. The younger brother Val was killed at once, in front of his brother, whose actions then lead to him being awarded the Military Medal, one of the highest honors that can be awarded to an enlisted soldier. His citation reads FOR CALMNESS AND COURAGE REGARDLESS OF DANGER In the Yarabos Area, New Guinea on 11May 1945, the patrol of which QX12502 Gnr Eric Heuston was a member, was ambushed by a greatly superior enemy force and had great difficulty in extricating itself. During the action two of the NCOs (including Gnr Heustons own brother) and the point scout were killed. A third NCO was wounded.Gnr Heuston immediately voluntarily took over the duties of point scout and lead the patrol to safety, killing single - handed six of the enemy, thereby largely contributing to the breaking of the ambush. His promptness in taking over this most dangerous duty showed courage and initiative at a time when the patrol was in danger of annihilation and his personal example and gallant conduct was an inspiration to all ranks. Having extracted itself from the ambush the patrol found itself cut off from its base and in leading the patrol back through very difficult country Gnr Heuston accounted for two more of the enemy. Throughout the day he showed calmness and courage regardless of his own personal danger, despite the fact that he had witnessed his own brother’s death early in the action. They were unable to find his brothers body when they were able to return to the ambush site later. This fact and his failing to prevent his brother’s death had a lasting effect on Eric, and even though he had saved so many other soldiers, I don’t think he ever really forgave himself or the Army for sending them out and getting people killed so close to the end of the war, for no good reason as he saw it. I served in Vietnam with 5 RAR in 1969, and at least all of our fallen were returned to Australia and given a proper burial. Thinking about all the blokes like Uncle Val who have no grave, I wrote a poem about it. No flag above our bones does fly No trumpet sounds “Last Post” There's none to mark our resting place Just we restless, wandering, Ghosts On jungle tracks, on mountains steep Or in burning tanks we died Sometimes our mates left us behind Though to do that crushed their pride But now that you've remembered us Our souls can find their rest For though we fought a "Forgotten War" To a man we did our best For all we had was what we gave So you and yours be free And now with those we fought against In the Jungles arms are we So now when someone reads this poem And stops to bow their head We'll lay in peace because they do In our leafy jungle bed" Lest we Forget"

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