109 days of cycling - Benalla to Wangaratta via Ned Kelly country.


Before leaving Benalla, a quick visit to the Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop memorial at the rose gardens was definitely on the agenda. Weary Dunlop (D Force) headed a revisit back to Singapore (Changi Prison) in 1991 which my Uncle, Jack Butt, was part of. I've since seen a photograph of the POW tour group and assume that my uncle, now deceased, knew Weary well. The monument shows Weary and another Doctor supporting another POW who looks like he is on his last legs and in serious need of medical attention. A rose garden surrounds the memorial statue with a rose dedicated to Weary Dunlop (The Sir Weary Rose) who saved hundred of lives in POW camps during the construction of the infamous Thai Burma Death Railway where my father William Sams and uncle Jack also suffered at the hands of their Japanese captors during their captivity.
May they rest in peace.
I was certainly getting deep into Ned Kelly country on route to Wangaratta today. On arriving in Glenrowan I sensed the real Ned Kelly looking over my shoulder as I stood with my mate Brian "Ned" Kelly (who served with me in the army) in the Main Street of town, knowing that a statue of the real Ned Kelly stood behind us.
Edward "Ned" Kelly (December 1854 - 11 November 1880) was an Australian bushranger of Irish descent.
Kelly was born in the British colony of Victoria as the third of eight children to an Irish convict from County Tipperary and an Australian mother with Irish parentage. His father died after serving a six-month prison sentence, leaving Kelly, then aged 12, as the eldest male of the household. The Kellys were a poor selector family who saw themselves as downtrodden by the Squattocracy and as victims of police persecution. Arrested in 1870 for associating with bushranger Harry Power, Kelly was first convicted of stealing horses and imprisoned for three years. He fled to the bush in 1878 after being indicted for the attempted murder of a police officer at the Kelly family's home. After he, his brother Dan, and two associates fatally shot three policemen, the Government of Victoria proclaimed them outlaws.
During the remainder of the Kelly Outbreak, Kelly and his associates committed armed bank robberies in Euroa and Jerilderie, and murdered Aaron Sherritt, a friend turned police informer. In a manifesto letter, Kelly—denouncing the police, the Victorian government and the British Empire—set down his own account of the events leading up to his outlawry. Threatening dire consequences against those who defied him, he ended with the words, "I am a widow's son outlawed and my orders must be obeyed."
When Kelly's attempt to derail and ambush a police train failed, he and his gang, dressed in homemade suits of metal armour, engaged in a final violent confrontation with the Victoria Police at Glenrowan on 28 June 1880. All were killed except Kelly, who was severely wounded by police fire and captured. Despite support for his reprieve, Kelly was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, which was carried out at the Old Melbourne Gaol. His final words are famously reported to have been, "such is life".
Even before his execution, Kelly had become a legendary figure in Australia. Historian Geoffrey Serle called Kelly and his gang "the last expression of the lawless frontier in what was becoming a highly organised and educated society, the last protest of the mighty bush now tethered with iron rails to Melbourne and the world." Despite the passage of more than a century, he remains a cultural icon, inspiring countless works in the arts, and is the subject of more biographies than any other Australian. Kelly continues to cause division in his homeland: some celebrate him as Australia's equivalent of Robin Hood, while others regard him as a murderous villain undeserving of his folk hero status. Journalist Martin Flanagan wrote: "What makes Ned a legend is not that everyone sees him the same—it's that everyone sees him. Like a bushfire on the horizon casting its red glow into the night."
Another fantastic welcome on reaching Wangaratta. Local folks, RSL members and veterans were waiting for me in front of what's to be the new Wangaratta RSL (2017). Lt. General (Rtd) Ash Power headed a welcoming committee at a local function as I arrived on one of the most beautiful sunny days of my whole journey since leaving Perth. A warm day and lots of warm welcomes from individuals during a organised sausage sizzler for the long ride home team. Well done Wangaratta RSL and thank you Ash Power for your outstanding welcome speech on arrival. We wish you the best with the plans for the new RSL which I believe will be ready in 2017, as mentioned, all planning going to schedule.
It is always appreciated by the long ride team passing through towns on route and when local folk come out in support of PTSD awareness. Most certainly that was no different in Wangaratta as Ash Power highlighted during his speech; in support of younger veterans who suffer from that most terrible disease as he embraced the long ride home cause for being a big success in raising awareness in support of them.
Warmest regards to those who are supporting the PTSD awareness cause and a big thank you to the latest donors who have kindly donated over the last couple of days, they are:
* Lt. General Ash Power AO, CSC ( retired ),
* Wangaratta RSL,
* Brian Vearing,
* Chris Amos, and
* Jeff Renkin
Wangaratta is a cathedral city in the northeast of Victoria, Australia, approximately 250 km (160 mi) from Melbourne along the Hume Highway. The city had an estimated urban population of 18,158 at June 2015. The original inhabitants of the area were the Pangerang Aborigines (Pallanganmiddang, WayWurru, Waveroo), who spoke a Gunai language. Many of the Pangerang were killed in the Gippsland massacres.
The first European explorers to pass through the Wangaratta area were Hume and Hovell (1824) who named the Oxley Plains immediately south of Wangaratta. Major Thomas Mitchell during his 1836 expedition he made a favourable report of its potential as grazing pasture. The first squatter to arrive was Thomas Rattray in 1838 who built a hut (on the site of the Sydney Hotel) founding a settlement known as "Ovens Crossing".
The name Wangaratta was given by colonial surveyor Thomas Wedge in 1848 after the "Wangaratta" cattle station, the name of which is believed to have been derived from an indigenous language and meaning "nesting place of cormorants" or "meeting of the waters". The first land sales occurred shortly afterward and the population at the time was around 200. The first school was established by William Bindall on Chisolm Street with 17 students.
Gold was found nearby at Beechworth in February 1852 and by the end of the year more than 8,000 prospectors rushed the fields of Ovens and Beechworth. Wangaratta became a major service centre to these goldfields. As a result, the first bridge over the Ovens was completed in early 1855.
The 1870s saw the settlement establish a number of key infrastructure and services including the first water supply. Wangaratta hospital was opened in 1871 and the fire brigade was established in 1872. The railway to Melbourne was opened on 28 October 1873.
On 28 June 1880 in the nearby small town of Glenrowan located some 10 km away the final shootout that led to the capture of Australia's most famous bushranger, Ned Kelly occurred.
The population at the turn of the century reached 2,500 and the centre had developed an imposing streetscape of hotels, commercial public and religious buildings.
Wangaratta was proclaimed a city on 15 April 1959 with a population of 12,000 people. New municipal offices were opened in 1980 which became the headquarters of the Rural City of Wangaratta after the amalgamation of municipalities in 1995.
Truck on the long ride home, getting closer to the border of the states of Victoria and New South Wales.
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Day 108 of riding - Seymour to Benalla via Euroa and Violet Town


Day 108 of riding - Seymour to Benalla via Euroa and Violet Town.

Heading up the Hume Highway out of Seymour today and deep into the bushranger trail where Ned Kelly and his gang are set in stone - particularly Ned as a folklore bushranger only to be hanged and remembered for his misdeeds and his famous quote before he was hanged "Such is life". More to follow on Ned Kelly later as his name still lingers on today.

Riding into Euroa to a welcome and morning tea hosted by RSL members Phil Munt and Gary Cooper. The RSL is proud to have three statues of three Victoria Cross recipients:

Lieutenant Leslie Maygar c. 1903
Leslie Cecil Maygar, VC, DSO, VD (27 May 1868 – 1 November 1917) was an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was awarded the VC for facilitating the rescue of a dismounted man while under severe rifle fire in 1902 during the Second Boer War. He later served at Gallipoli during the First World War, and died of wounds received at the Battle of Beersheba during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign.

Captain Frederick Tubb c.1916
Tubb was born on 28 November 1881 to Harry and Emma E. Tubb, of St. Helena, Longwood East, Victoria, Australia. He was 33 years old, and a lieutenant in the 7th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, during the First World War when he was awarded the VC for his actions on 9 August 1915 at Lone Pine, Gallipoli. Lieutenant Tubb held a newly captured trench which was being counter-attacked by the enemy, who blew in a sand-bag barricade, leaving only a foot of it standing. Tubb led his men back, repulsed the enemy and rebuilt the barricade. Twice more the enemy blew in the barricade, but on each occasion this officer, although wounded in the head and arm, held his ground and assisted by corporals Alexander Burton and William Dunstan, rebuilt it, and maintained the position under heavy bombardment.

Alexander Stewart Burton.
Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, Burton enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 18 August 1914 and posted to the 7th Battalion. He embarked with the battalion for the Middle East on 19 October 1914. On 25 April 1915, 7th Battalion landed at Gallipoli but Burton was sick and did not reach the front lines until a week later. He was promoted to the rank of lance corporal on 10 July 1915 for "having volunteered and taken part in the forcing of Saphead D21 in the face of the enemy".

On 9 August 1915, Burton fought in the Battle of Lone Pine when his company reinforced newly captured Turkish trenches. Burton was one of a party of men that manned a barricade against attacking Turkish soldiers. Killed in this action, he was recommended by his battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Pompey Elliott, for the award of the Victoria Cross (VC). Two other members of the party, Lieutenant Frederick Tubb and Corporal William Dunstan, were also awarded VCs. Burton's VC was gazetted on 15 October 1915 - the citation read as follows:

For most conspicuous bravery at Lone Pine Trenches on the 9th August, 1915. In the early morning the enemy made a determined counter-attack on the centre of the newly captured trench held by Lieutenant Tubb, Corporals Burton and Dunstan and a few men. They [the enemy] advanced up a sap and blew in a sandbag barricade, leaving only one foot of it standing, but Lieutenant Tubb with the two Corporals repulsed the enemy and rebuilt the barricade. Supported by strong bombing parties the enemy twice again succeeded in blowing the barricade, but on each occasion they were repulsed and the barricade rebuilt, although Lieutenant Tubb was wounded in the head and arm and Corporal Burton was killed by a bomb while most gallantly building up the parapet under a hail of bombs.
— The London Gazette, 15 October 1915

Thank you to the RSL for morning tea and a grand tour of the Victoria Cross memorial statue park.

A huge welcome on arrival Violet Town by RSL committee, staff, members, Lions club members, and the public at the memorial hall in the centre of town after riding on from Euroa. A warm welcoming speech by Ross Walker RSL President whom I hadn't seen for almost 46 years after serving together in SAS.

Ross was onboard to facilitate and organise a grand welcome for myself and the long ride home team as mentioned, a substantial donation presented by RSL Vice President James Payne, Lions President Michael Loughlin, an invite to plant a SAS Anniversary Rose in front of the wall of honour, and a hearty luncheon before riding onto Benalla.

To all at Euroa and Violet town a huge thank you for your warm welcoming ceremonies, donations and outstanding hospitality during the long ride home whilst on route North to Sydney. And to those who have donated thank you as well on behalf of the long ride home team, they are:

Mike Bourke
Lyndon Fracaro
Highlands Caravan Park Seymour
Knippel & Payne
Leigh Stephens
Susan Montgomery
Lions Club Violet Town
Violet Town RSL
The Late Stephen John Payne
Peter Stapelton
Rand Alexander
Frank McMahon
Patty Young
Alana & Shannon, Hair Manor, Benalla
Tim Stevens
Thomas Golder
Lynn Austin
RSL Murray Bridge

Warmest Regards and many thanks to you all for your donations, support and marvellous comments on the long ride home website and Facebook.
A big thank you to Frauline from the Violet Town RSL who presented me with a huge bag of Anzac biscuits to take with me on the ride.

Truck in Benalla Victoria on the long ride home, still truckin.

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Day 107 of riding - Rest Day Rye - Melbourne to Seymour


Day 107 of riding - Rest Day Rye - Melbourne to Seymour

A great rest day in Rye / Melbourne allowing my knee to to take a break, some Physio and prepare the support vehicles to move North from Melbourne up the Hume highway. A change of crew, Dean Pye leaves us in Melbourne - Chris Johnson who served with me in Vietnam comes on board as support driver replacing Dean - Terry Barker and Ned Kelly continue on.

After saying farewell to our host Rye RSL President John Wilson who made sure we had fantastic accommodation at the RSL house, I would like to pass on a huge thank you again to the Rye RSL, Committee members, staff and members for the hospitality, friendship and days care given to the long ride home team during our stay. It was onto Melbourne for another night stay before a send off from parliament on Monday morning.

I asked to put a tip in for the Melbourne Cup during the one of the biggest racehorse events in the world whilst I'm passing through the day before the big event. As I am a guest of some nice folks in Ivanhoe Melbourne; Lorraine Robson, Andrew Robson and their son Anthony (a performing singer) my pick for a horse to win in the Melbourne Cup is Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe is a gelding born in 13/10/2009 by Collate out of Amelia Saratoga (JPN), trained by the Todd Austin stable.

The current race record for Ivanhoe is 7 wins from 49 starts with prize money of $94,665. Ivanhoe was down the field a bit after the running of the cup but didn't disgrace by being last of the field.

Thank you to the Robson family for hosting the long ride home team in Ivanhoe. A great night and a privilege to meet you and your lovely friends Carlo Campiciano and Lee Mullany over a fantastic dinner before leaving Melbourne heading North.

A huge farewell to my troop Commander (SAS Vietnam) who came to Vietnam in June on the long ride home as part of meeting some our former enemy in dialogue - both sides of the fence during our time in combat in Phouc Tuy province 45 years ago. Rob and I were part of A Troop which was called A Troop "the pumpkin patch" because before deploying to Vietnam in 1970 the very young troopers were advised to be home before midnight otherwise they'd turn into pumpkins. Rob has also been facilitating fund raising and PTSD Awareness events prior to me arriving in Queenscliff and Sorrento Victoria. Thank you Rob you've been a great asset for the long ride home team in general .

It's also time to say good bye to Dean Pye (Deano) who leaves the long ride home in Melbourne. Deano came on board in Adelaide as co driver but has been fantastic in his tasking as South Australian event coordinator to organise successful events throughout SA whilst I rode through the state. After coming on board in Adelaide he has been the back stay behind the team getting us to Victoria and onwards with ease. He has taken care of my well being through a time of injury, duress and stress after riding more than 9,000 kms. Dean you have been a godsend and you'll be missed over the rest of the long ride home course. On behalf of Terry, Ned and myself thank you my friend and in conclusion, your act will be a hard one to follow.

On arrival and send off on the steps of Parliament House Melbourne today before heading North to Seymour. In attendance for a great welcome ceremony:
* Lee Webb RSL state executive member of Victoria and Vietnam Veteran.
* Hong Lim MP representing Lee Eren Victoria Minister for Veteran Affairs, and
* The Victorian Branch of the Australian SAS Association members.

It was onto Seymour after discussions and farewells from all who attended the ceremony at Parliament House Melbourne.

Arrive in Seymour to a proud display of the Vietnam Veterans memorial walkway in the centre of town. A large Iroquois helicopter (Huey) stands high on a steel structure at the entrance to the walkway and looks as though it's still flying above those all Vietnam Veterans whose names are etched on the wall winding its way through the 100 meters long walkway. For those who wish to visit there:

The Commemorative Walk is not to memorialise those who served in Vietnam and/or those who paid the ultimate price, but to commemorate the service of all who played their part in what turned out to be a tumultuous part of Australia’s history. It does, in the interpretive centre, give an accurate history of the times prior to military commitment, the period of our involvement and the aftermath.

The Walk is a meandering red earth path set in native trees and grasses that resemble rubber trees and rice paddies. These two plants are synonymous with Vietnam.

The centre piece of this Walk is the wall, made up of panels of DigiGlass with the name of every Serviceman and Woman who served, in their various capacities in that conflict. The names are separated only by the Service in which they served and are in alphabetical order. The plinths on which the panels stand have holes for you to place Poppies; the effect is to have a field of Poppies under the names. Behind the names is the picture story of the Vietnam conflict.

By all means find the names of loved ones by standing close to the Wall, but also draw back 5 or so metres and look at the pictures behind the names. There is the story of Vietnam in photos, mainly supplied by Veterans.

There are areas of contemplation for people to use along the length of this walk.
Further details go to:


Warmest regards to you all and to those who continue to support the long ride home cause.

Also in closing it was a great opportunity to catch up with Jeff Beach (our website master) from Bigdog Software who met me here in Seymour. Jeff has been in contact with me relentlessly on a day by day basis before I left Hanoi. I call him the wizard because of his magical work he's done on the long ride home website over the last year or so.

Well done Jeff!!!! Congratulations on such great work you've achieved with this website.

Truck still truckin in Victoria Australia

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Solid Rock

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Day 105 and 106 of riding - Ballarat to Queenscliff, Sorrento via Melton and Geelong


Heading on down the highway from Ballarat to Sorrento via Melton, Geelong and Queenscliff Another police escort getting me safely through the city to the council community hall at Melton thanks to Steve and Joe (Police escorts). A pleasure to be met by the CEO Melton Shire Kel Tori, Kevin Murray President RSL, and Ian Lowry Vietnam Veterans Association. After a civic reception, luncheon, and welcome speech by Kel Tori, it was onwards to Geelong for an overnight stay then on to Sorrento where we are today.
The team took the opportunity for a small but important ceremony at Queenscliff - Dean Pye (SA event coordinator and TLRH support crew) and Robin McBride laid a wreath with me at the commando memorial site at Queenscliff to honour the CMF soldiers who were sadly killed during a amphibious training exercise on 17th February 1960.
Today was very significant in that both Robin McBride and Dean Pye had been previous commanding officers of 2 Commando Company during their time serving in the Australian army.
On the night of 17th February 1960, 74 men from 2 Commando Company and the Amphibious Platoon of the transport Corps were to participate in an amphibious exercise, a culmination of several weeks of training in the area.
The objective of the exercise was to conduct a raid on the Officer Cadet School located on the southern reaches of the Mornington Peninsula near Portsea, directly opposite Queenscliff and in a line inside the Heads to Port Phillip Bay. The exercise raiding force, simulating an actual operation, included kayaks and Zodiac inflatable craft, supported for safety by an army workboat and a couple of amphibious vehicles called ‘ducks’ the common term for DUKW. Armed, with blank ammunition for their rifles and submachine guns, with their faces blackened for camouflage, they were black boats on black seas as you would expect in the real thing.
Barry Higgins, 2 Commando, recalls that at approximately 1800 hours on the night of the exercise about half an hour before entering the water, ‘the seas were quiet, like a millpond, with a bright blue almost cloudless sky’.
The Commandos were volunteer members of the Army Reserve (then called Citizen Military Forces or CMF). Most of them had done their compulsory national military service – but were prepared to continue serving in spare time and holidays.
They wore Army uniforms and for safety a lifejacket – not a wet suit which today many may assume may be worn as the waters here on the edge of Bass Strait are particularly cold, much colder than experienced in most waters of Port Phillip Bay.
At 1830 hours the Commandos set out on their mission at the last of the in-coming tide.
At nightfall a massive storm came in suddenly from the south east and hit the exercising forces and swept many participants out of their craft creating havoc on the water.
The storm was so sudden and fierce that with such little warning they were almost immediately in a fight for survival. As the storm unleashed its force huge white water swells loomed outside the Heads and the tide raced at about 8 knots (approx 14 + kmph).
The boats engines were weaker than the tide as the boats were abruptly overturned and swamped or sucked out through the Heads into Bass Strait.
Usual practices like ‘rafting up’, lashing several craft alongside each other, was unsuccessful given the very force of the storm. The tide was now running at its peak and the southerly winds were bottling up the natural pressure of the now bottled tide, resulting in unpredictable, erratic waves in direction and strength, and in unreliable wave patterns. Some remarked that the waves were reckoned to be 20 feet or more with random patterns and very destructive.
Many stories of individual circumstances of the ordeal illustrate just how the terrific was storm.
The Queenscliff rescue craft including the pilot boat battled the conditions for hours searching for men who were near death treading water for hours.
This was a dreadful outcome and one which is terrifying in its consideration. Worse, tragically three men died, drowned. Commando George ‘Taffy’ Drakopoulos, and Eddie Meyer from the Amphibious Platoon, drowned before they could be rescued. Another commando, Roger Wood helped fellow commandos up a rope ladder to a rescue vessel from a large inflatable craft before he was swamped by a huge wave and drowned. All three men were from Melbourne, about 20 years of age.
For many years this was the Australian Defence Force’s biggest peacetime disaster.
It serves as a reminder that tragedy can strike in peacetime as well as in war, and that the training to be realistic must inevitably be inherently dangerous where accidents can happen. These circumstances can leave marks or scars on an individual’s mind which in turn may return to haunt them in the future.
The Australian Defence Force at the time was at a loss what to do in the aftermath; it was an accident for whom no one was at fault. Getting on with the job was most likely the best medicine.
It was on 30th January in 2000, when this memorial plaque to the three who died was dedicated – a wait of 40 years. At its dedication some of the survivors ‘shook and cried’ as the bad memories overtook the good. One survivor in particular recalled he was so disturbed by the experience he was unable to sleep for three days. On the plus side of the ledger, he reconnected with other former Commandos who he had avoided seeing for years.
Not only do the stark images create disturbing memories the nature of survival often goes hand in glove with survivor guilt which can just keep eating away at the soul.
As a post script, today in an increasingly violent society even the protective and emergency services (Police, Firies and Ambos) are increasingly witness to or subjected to extreme violence in the execution of their duties, it is not exclusively the province of peacetime or operational military forces.
On completion of the Commando tragedy service a grand tour of the Queenscliff Fort museum by Warrant Officer Shane Sollans was scheduled throughout the old fort which is now a tourist museum. A fantastic tour and well worth doing if you're passing through Sorrento Victoria.
Fort Queenscliff, in Victoria, Australia, dates from 1860 when an open battery was constructed on Shortland's Bluff to defend the entrance to Port Phillip. The Fort, which underwent major redevelopment in the late 1870s and 1880s, became the headquarters for an extensive chain of forts around Port PhillipHeads. Its garrison included volunteer artillery, engineers, infantry and naval militia, and it was manned as a coastal defence installation continuously from 1883 to 1946. The other fortifications and armaments around the Heads were completed by 1891, and together made Port Phillip one of the most heavily defended harbours in the British Empire.
The first Allied shots of World War I were fired when a gun at Fort Nepean fired across the bow of the German freighter Pfalz, as she was attempting to escape to sea. The orders to fire came from Fort Queenscliff. The same gun, with a different barrel, also fired the first Allied shot of World War II. By 1946 coastal artillery was outmoded, and the Fort became home of the Army Command and Staff College. After the three Service Staff Colleges were combined into the Australian Defence College in Canberra, it became the base for Army's Soldier Career Management Agency in 2001.
Fort Queenscliff is located in the Borough of Queenscliffe, some 106 km from Melbourne, on the western side of the entrance to Port Phillip. It occupies an area of 6.7 hectares on high ground known as Shortland's Bluff and overlooks the shipping lanes leading to Melbourne and Geelong. The Fort is a superb example of the defences that existed around the coastline of Australia from colonial times through to the end of the Second World War. Considerable restoration has been accomplished at Fort Queenscliff in recent years, including the recovery and refurbishment of some of the original guns, the restoration of historic buildings, and the development of a comprehensive indoor display and archival centre. Fort Queenscliff has been classified by the National Trust and entered in the Register of the National Estate.
A museum was established at Fort Queenscliff in 1982 to show the significance of the Fort in the local, state and national context and to provide a centre for historical research.
A short hop of 45 minutes ferry crossing from Queenscliff to Sorrento thanks to Sea Road Ferries with an announcement over the intercom about the long ride home and that I was on board was certainly a big surprise. Thank you to all at Sea Road Ferries for your outstanding support.
On arrival Sorrento and a short hill climb to Sorrento shopping mall I was met by 200 school children who were all very eager to meet the one-legged Truck riding from Hanoi to Sydney. I don't think Mel Gibson got a bigger welcome to promote his latest movie than I did yesterday, but not only at Sorrento they all gathered. I was on the bike again and pedaling to the Rye RSL where upon arrival I was once again greeted by a large enthusiastic group of primary schools children from three schools, including members of the Vietnam Veteran Association, RSL members, and members of the public. Overall a big thank you to;
Peter Meehan (MC) at Sorrento
Michael Jefferson (Sorrento RSL & donor)
Sorrento Primary School
St. Joseph's Primary School.
Rye RSL Max Loves (Vice President Rye RSL & donor)
Martin Dixon MP (local member for attendance)
Ray Headspeath (secretary Rye RSL)
Ray Young (treasurer RSL Rye)
Rye Primary School
Boneo Primary school
Tootgarook primary school
Certainly great to catch up with some Golden Old & Bold SAS mates from way back, some whom I served with in Vietnam and SAS Regiment Perth; John Burrows, Col Moyle, Bill Clifton, Zed Frazer, Rowdy Hannaford, Chris Johnson and Robin McBride who has been instrumental in organising the events here in Queenscliff and Sorrento. Great to see you all guys, and a big thanks to you Robin for taking precious time to liaise and organise aspects with the local community that has most certainly benefited the long ride home cause - PTSD awareness and fund raising.
A huge thank you to the long ride home donors over the last few days and to those who have sponsored accommodation whilst we've been on the road. They are:
Ballarat City CEO Bob Coleman
John Burrows
Ray & Irene (Rye RSL)
Coralyn Wickam (RSL Rye)
Rye RSL Members
Ian Lowe
RSL Sorrento
Jack Warner
Bruce Harding
Phil & Maria Xuereb
Peter Dunn
Graham Nuestad
Warmest regards to all who are following the website and offering words of support.
Truck, on a rest day in Sorrent, Victoria
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Day 104 of cycling - Ararat to Ballarat


Another day of headwinds all the way from Ararat to Ballarat, but worth the agony to be finally greeted at a civic reception waiting for me at the Ballarat RSL. Representatives from the Council and RSL - Alex Tuscas (President Ballarat RSL), Justine Liney (CEO Ballarat Shire), Regimental Sergeant Major Barry Fawcett 8th/7th Royal Victorian Regiment (Ranger Barracks Ballarat) RSL members, and residents of Ballarat who were there for the welcoming ceremony as well. A very touching speech by Justine Linney and a substantial donation from the Ballarat Shire presented to the long ride home cause at the ceremony.
Accommodation and a evening Barb B Que was organised by Barry Fawcett for the team. A great pleasure and honour for me to address soldiers from 8/7 Royal Victorian Regiment (Ranger Barracks) to talk about the long ride home from Hanoi, and finally discuss the awareness of post trauma stress disorder.
The Ballarat phase of the battalion's history was formed as the Ballarat Volunteer Rifle Regiment on 9 August 1858 as a result of the Crimean War, coupled with the withdrawal of the British Army in 1857. In the years between its formation and the outbreak of War in 1914, the battalion went through a series of name changes as follows:
1854 – Earliest units of the RVR formed ( Melbourne Volunteer Rifle Regt. )
1858 – Ballarat Volunteer Rifle Regiment (later Rangers)
1884 – 3rd Balarat Ballarat Infantry
1892 – 1st Battalion, 3rd Victorian Regiment
1898 – 3rd battalion, Victoria Infantry Brigade
1901 – 3rd Battalion Infantry Brigade
1908 – 1st Battalion 7th Australian Infantry Regiment
1912 – 70th Battalion (Ballarat Regiment) including Geelong
1912 – 71st Battalion (City of Ballarat Regiment)
Further to the north the following evolution was taking place (encompassing the Bendigo/Castlemaine and Murray river areas):
1858 – Bendigo Rifle Regiment
1860 – Bendigo Volunteer Rifle Corps
1870 – Castlemaine Corps of Rifles
1872 – Mount Alexander Bn of Victorian Rifles
1883 – 4th Battalion of Infantry
1887 – 4th Mount Alexander battalion of Victorian Rifles
1893 – 2nd Battalion, 3rd Victorian Regiment
1898 – 4th Battalion, Victorian Infantry Brigade
1903 – 8th Australian Infantry Regiment
1908 – 1st Battalion, 8th Australian Infantry Regiment
1912 – 66th (Mount Alexander) Infantry
When war broke out in 1914, the 8th Battalion was recruited from the Ballarat and Ararat areas and the 7th Battalion from the North Western and Murray areas. Both battalions became well known and respected for their actions in the Gallipoli campaign and later in France, earning numerous Campaign and Battle honours, some of which are emblazoned on the Royal Victorian Regiments Colours, with the remainder being held in trust by the Regimental council.
After World War I, further restructuring took place in the Ballarat and North-Western Regions. At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, both the 8th and 7th Battalions were again raised, and the two battalions served side by side during the most significant campaigns and battles of that war.
Following World War II, the 8th and 7th Battalions were amalgamated to form the 8th/7th Battalion, the North Western Victorian Regiment. The battalion retained its name until 1960, when Pentropic Divisions were formed and the battalion became 2RVR, absorbing the 8th/7th, 38th and 59th Battalions.
On 14 November 1987, the battalion was officially retitled the 8th/7th Battalion, The Royal Victoria Regiment. It has adopted the white (8th Battalion) and brown (7th Battalion) lanyard and wears the 8th Battalion colour patch (rectangle white over red). The Battalion Flag consists of the regimental badge on a diagonally split background of brown above white.
The Royal Victoria Regiment has the enviable honour of having inherited the most battle honours of any other Infantry Regiment of the Australian Defence Force. 8/7 RVR currently holds the following battle honours:
- Boer War: South Africa 1899–1902.
- World War I: Landing at Anzac Cove, Somme 1916–1918, Bullecourt, Ypres 1917, Polygon Wood, Ameins, Albert 1918, Mont St Quentin, Hindenburg Line.
- World War II: Bardia 1941, Capture of Tobruk, El Alamein, Greece 1941, South West Pacific 1942–1945, Bobdubi, Finisterres, Hari River, Borneo.
On behalf of the long ride home team I would like to say many thanks to all in Ballarat for your outstanding contribution to the long ride home cause.
Thank you Regimental Sergeant Major Barry Fawcett and members of the 8th/7th RVR for an outstanding tour of the Headquarters in Ballarat and for organising a meeting discussion with the group of soldiers on the night.
In closing a big thank you to latest donors who have donated whilst we have been on the road over the last few days and to those who have donated online.
- Murray Bridge RSL
- Ararat RSL
- Ballarat Shire Council
- Bob Coleman
- Graham Neustad
- Peter Dunn
- Petra & Mark Hay
Getting closer to Melbourne, traffic getting more dense, but drivers are still friendly, courteous and acknowledging the long ride home road team.
Truck Sams still truckin
On the long ride home, Victoria
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Day 102 and 103 of riding - Nhill to Ararat via Horsham

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After a great breakfast put on by the Nhill RSL (Henry Berry and Rhys Webb) it was time to move down the highway and burn those calories off. A mighty fine day yesterday to Horsham and onto to Ararat. Juvy has left the team and headed back to WA driving back along the same route I rode on. He's been on the road since the 5th September and done a mighty fine job as support driver. All the best Juvy and I'm sure it will be a big treat for you to fit back into normality with your family after 6 weeks in support.
Due to the loss of one support vehicle and driver heading back to Perth, it was a big reshuffle of equipment, installation of a rear camera (for my safety) and change of crew for up front in charge of the lead support vehicle.
Arrived to a warm welcome by the Horsham RSL including lunch, speech and donation by the RSL President Ken Taylor and Councillor Angela Murray.
Moving on towards Melbourne, via Ballarat, Geelong and Sorrento over the next few days now at the 9,200 km point and 102 actual riding days since leaving Hanoi. The Ararat RSL members were out in force to meet us on arrival, a most outstanding welcome in big numbers to look after the long ride home team during our overnight stay there. A big thank you to the RSL President Frank Neulist, RSL Manager Maria Whitford, Wayne Wild Secretary and Frank Logan Treasurer for a presentation of insight into the RSL facilities and long term goals which appears to be very successful. In closing, a huge thank you to all the committee, staff and members for the huge donation towards the long ride home cause. It's support and donations like this that I am seeing through clubs and association just like the Ararat RSL since starting the ride that helps keep the awareness going and motivation for me to continue doing the hard yards for such a cause. Well done to you all from the long ride home team on the road and at those at higher echelons level.
Horsham is a regional city in the Wimmera region of western Victoria, Australia. Located on the Wimmera River, Horsham is about 300 kilometres north-west of the state capital Melbourne. In June 2015, Horsham had an estimated population of 16,451. Horsham was named by original settler James Monckton Darlot after the town of Horsham in his native England. It grew throughout the latter 19th and early 20th century as a centre of Western Victoria's wheat and wool industry. Horsham was declared a city in 1949 and was named Australia's Tidiest Town in 2001 and again in 2015.
The first inhabitants of the Horsham area were the Djura Balug indigenous Australian tribe who spoke the Jardwadjali language.
Major Thomas Mitchell was the first European to pass through the area, naming the Wimmera River on 18 July 1836.
Squatter James Monckton Darlot was the first European settler, claiming 100,000 acres at Dooen on 10 August 1842. Charles Carter established his property "Brim Springs" nearby in 1845.
The main railway from Melbourne reached Horsham in 1879 and was later extended to Adelaide, South Australia, while a branch line west to Carpolac was started in 1887 and closed in 1988. The Horsham Borough Council and the Shire of Wimmera operated the McKenzie Creek Tramway from the town to a stone quarry, some 8 kilometres to the south. The horse tramway opened in 1885 and ceased operating in 1927. Special picnic trains operated from time to time conveying residents in open wagons.
Major flooding affected the settlement in both October 1894 and August 1909 with the Wimmera reaching 3.87 m.
Ararat is a city in south-west Victoria, Australia, about 198 kilometres west of Melbourne, on the Western Highway on the eastern slopes of the Ararat Hills and Cemetery Creek valley between Victoria's Western District and the Wimmera. Its urban population according to the Council's Website is 8,076 and services the region of 11,752 residents across the Rural City's boundaries
The discovery of gold in 1857 during the Victorian gold rush transformed it into a boomtown which continued to prosper until the turn of the 20th century after which it has steadily declined in population. It was proclaimed as a city on 24 May 1950. After a decline in population over the 1980s and 90s, there has been a small but steady increase in the population, and it is the site of many existing and future, large infrastructure projects including the Hopkins Correctional Facility development project.
Prior to the European settlement of Australia, Ararat was inhabited by the TjapwurongIndigenous Australian people.
Europeans first settled in the Grampians region in the 1840s after surveyor Thomas Mitchell passed through the area in 1836. In 1841, Horatio Wills, on his way to selecting country further south, wrote in his diary, "like the Ark we rested" and named a nearby hill Mt Ararat. It is from this entry and the nearby Mount that the town takes its name. The Post Office opened 1 February 1856 although known as Cathcart until 31 August 1857.
In 1857, a party of Chinese miners en route to the Central Victorian gold fields struck gold at the Canton Lead which marked the beginning of great growth in Ararat. The Chinese community was substantial in Ararat, and the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre commemorates the history of the community.
Ararat became a city of asylums, with a large facility Aradale Mental Hospital was opened in 1865 and J Ward, a lunatic asylum for criminally insane (formerly the Ararat County Gaol), opened in 1887. Both have been closed but remain as significant reminders of the city's role in the treatment of mentally ill patients.
Many thanks from us all on the long ride home team
Truck Sams
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Day 101 of riding - Bordertown to Nhill, Victoria.



As mentioned in my last blog, it has been great weather for riding but I'm told that the weather could change in a heartbeat down this way. Leaving Bordertown today that was the case - heavy rain on crossing into Victoria and the temperature had plummeted rapidly as the heavens opened up to make my ride absolutely wet and freezing cold onwards to the town of Nhill. Trucks rumbled by spraying large amounts of water to make me even more wet and the roads even more dangerous and slippery.

I arrived in Nhill to a most warm welcome ceremony hosted by the local lions club CEO Greg Wood and Nhill College Students. The warm food and warm welcome certainly lifted the spirit, however, it became too cold for all involved so I was whisked off to the Nhill RSL to a more comfortable environment.

Quite a cultural experience to be had at the RSL with a welcome dance by the local Karen community dancers from Myanmar (Burma) who have been resettled here along with 180 others Karen from refugee camps along the Thai Burma border (Tak/Mae Sot to Mae Hong Son). John Millington, along with Kaw Doh (Karen leader and spokesperson), paid homage to the Karen people of Nhill who have resettled here over the years, proudly becoming naturalised Australian citizens and who have settled quite comfortable into the working and industrial life in and around the Nhill community. In discussions with the Deputy Mayor Wendy Robins I was impressed with how the Karen women have been supported and encouraged by the Hindmarsh Shire Council to utilise their marvellous cultural weaving skills in successfully setting up their own product shop "Paw Po" in the heart of Nhill.

According to the councils community profile on the Karen people in Nhill, they have brought significant benefits to the community after previous population decline having a negative impact on the local community affecting business, funding for education and health services and Council's ability to provide infrastructure. The Karen community's rapid growth is helping stop this decline, providing long term benefits for the community. Also after a talk with John Millington whose company has employed Karen workers for many years, he explained that some business organisations in the region have developed into a success stories primarily driven by such dedicated workers. Well done to the city of Nhill for your outstanding foresight into multiculturalism in Australia that can only be seen as a win win situation for the Hindmarsh Shire Council, the town of Nhill and the Karen community into the future.

The Karen, Kayin, Kariang or Yang people refer to a number of individual Sino-Tibetan language speaking ethnic groups, many of which do not share a common language or culture. These Karen groups reside primarily in Karen State, southern and southeastern Myanmar. The Karen make up approximately 7 percent of the total Burmese population with approximately 5 million people. A large number of Karen have migrated to Thailand, having settled mostly on the Thailand–Myanmar border.

The Karen groups as a whole are often confused with the Padaung tribe, best known for the neck rings worn by their women, but they are one sub-group of Red Karens (Karenni), one of the tribes of Kayah in Kayah State, Myanmar.

Some of the Karen, led primarily by the Karen National Union (KNU), have waged a war against the central Burmese government since early 1949. The aim of the KNU at first was independence. Since 1976 the armed group has called for a federal system rather than an independent Karen State.

Karen legends refer to a 'river of running sand' which ancestors reputedly crossed. Many Karen think this refers to the Gobi Desert, although they have lived in Myanmar for centuries. The Karen constitute the third biggest ethnic population in Myanmar, after the Bamars and Shans.

The term "Karen" is an umbrella term that refers to a heterogeneous lot of ethnic groups that do not share a common language, culture, religion or material characteristics. A pan-Karen ethnic identity is a relatively modern creation, established in the 1800s with the conversion of some Karens to Christianity and shaped by various British colonial policies and practices.

"Karen" is an Anglicisation of the Burmese word "Kayin" whose etymology is unclear. The word, which was originally a derogatory term referring to non-Buddhist ethnic groups, may have come from the Mon language, or is a corruption of Kanyan, the name of a vanished civilization.

In pre-colonial times, the low-lying Burmese and Mon-speaking kingdoms recognised two general categories of Karen, the Talaing Kayin generally lowlanders who were recognised as the "original settlers" and essential to Mon court life, and the Karen highlanders who were subordinated or assimilated by the Bamar.

A rest day after arriving in Nhill but plenty of hospitality from the local community, therefore , many thanks to:

* Helen Woodhouse - Herrick who was standing in the freezing cold rain waving the Australian flag as we arrived.

* The CEO Hindmarsh Shire Council Greg Wood and students from the Nhill College for their hospitality and speech on arrival.

* President of the RSL Henry Berry for the welcome at the RSL and sausage sizzler luncheon.

* The Karen Cultural Dance and welcome luncheon facilitated by the RSL, assisted by Rhys Webb, Deputy Mayor Wendy Robins, Kaw Doh and the Karen Cultural Dance Group.

* Merv Schneider for the tour of the RAAF WW2 Aviation museum.

* Darren Welsh Executive Director and Rhys Webb Male Nurse for the visit and tour of Nhill Community Healthcare Hospital facilities.

* Murray Moar for the Barb-B-Que Luncheon and tour of the Historical Vintage Museum at the Nhill Showgrounds also attended and assisted by members of the Lions, Rotary, Lowan Lodge Freemasons and RSL members.

A huge thank to the above organisations, members and individual who kindly donated a substantial amount and time towards the long ride home cause - a big thank you to those who donated;

1. Ron Hier for the Nhill Lions Club.

2. Noel Austin & Armand Vonbanecke for the Lowan Lodge Freemasons.

3. Henry Berry for the Nhill RSL, and

4. Kay Frost for the Nhill Rotary Club.

Further donations received and very much appreciated:

* Markye

* Sue and Bernie Kelly

* Dave Stanford

* Henry Nhill Caltex

* Lynn and Glenn Fraser

Sponsored homes aren't easy to provide for the team on the road but a big mention of gratitude to Deputy Mayor Wendy Robins and her partner Darryl who opened their beautiful home up for the team during a rest period here. To Rhys and partner Lems for the same hospitality in sharing their home and for facilitating the team during a tour of the towns facilities. The only question the guys has for Rhys is - are there any organisation, association or club that you aren't a member of in Nhill Rhys????? Top work mate!!

A big thank you from the long ride home team to all the kind folks of Nhill for looking after the team on their rest day in Nhill.

The area has been home to the WotjobalukAboriginal people for thousands of years and was first visited by Europeans in 1845. The famous Aboriginal tracker and cricketer, Dick-a-Dick, later claimed to have been present at the first meeting between the Wotjobaluk and Europeans. Brothers Frank and John Oliver decided to build a flour mill on Crown land beside the Dimboola-Lawloit road, the township of Nhill grew from there.

Cobb and Co coaches serviced Nhill from 1883. Nhill Post Office opened on 1 January 1881. An earlier rural office (1861) was replaced by Lawloit Post Office

Nhill was the first Victorian town after the state capital, Melbourne, to be supplied with electricity. Electric lighting was installed by 1892. Nhill airport, located 1.9km north-west of the town, served as a major RAAF training base during the Second World War, instructing over 10,000 aircrew in 1941-1946.

Nhill is a town in the Wimmera, in western Victoria, Australia. Nhill is located on the Western Highway, half-way between Adelaide and Melbourne. At the 2011 census Nhill had a population of 2278."Nhill" is believed to be a Wergaia word meaning "early morning mist rising over water"or "white mist rising from the water".

Many thanks.
Truck, Juvy, Dean, Terry and Ned Kelly on the long ride home in Victoria Australia

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