Someone else’s medals
Decorations and war service medals are linked inextricably with the service of veterans who have seen warlike or non-warlike operational service, so wearing someone else’s medals is not something to be done lightly.
CAPTION: Cadet Sergeant Casey Dibben wears her great-grandfather’s medals to honour the service of Private Geoffrey Whiteman, who served in New Guinea with the 6th Australian Division Workshops AIF. Photo by Pilot Officer (AAFC) Paul Rosenzweig
One of the privileges of being an Australian Air Force Cadet is that during specified commemorative activities, they may wear on their Service Dress uniform, the medals of a deceased relative. The medals are worn on the right breast, to show that the wearer is not the original recipient.
During the various commemorative events in South Australia and western Victoria during April, Air Force Cadets from No 6 Wing honoured the service of family members in various ways.
On Sunday 23 April, Cadet Sergeant Casey Dibben (main photo) was Flight Commander for the No 608 Squadron Contingent in the Gawler Anzac March. She wore her maternal great-grandfather’s medals to honour the service of Private Geoffrey Keith Whiteman (1922-1985) from Williamstown, SA.
Geoffrey Whiteman first enlisted in the Citizens Military Forces (CMF) in 1941, and served at home with the 18th Garrison Battalion in SA. On 15 December 1941 at the age of 19 – the age of many of the senior cadets holding key appointments during the Anzac Day commemoration period – he was called up for full-time duty. He served with the Darwin Defences and was present during the Bombing of Darwin, and then trained in north Queensland.
Private Whiteman volunteered for overseas service on 22 March 1943, and from Townsville went to Port Moresby as a member of the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF).
For his war service in New Guinea, Private Whiteman was awarded the 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, War Medal 1939-1945 and Australia Service Medal 1939-1945, and he received the Returned from Active Service Badge.
For the Gawler Anzac Day Dawn Service on 25 April 2017, Leading Cadet Lucy Tassell was a member of the Honour Guard provided by No 608 Squadron. She wore the medals of her great-grandfather to honour his service in the South West Pacific during and immediately after World War 2.
Owen William Forrest from Coolamon, NSW first served in the Australian Military Forces at home from 12 June 1942 to 29 June 1943. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in Sydney on 30 June 1943 and, as a 19-year-old, deployed for operational service in the South West Pacific theatre. Leading Aircraftman Forrest was awarded the 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, War Medal 1939-1945 and Australia Service Medal 1939-1945, and he received the Returned from Active Service Badge. For his continued operational service after the end of hostilities until his discharge on 22 May 1946 he was awarded the Australian Service Medal 1945-1975 with the clasp “S.W. PACIFIC”.
Earlier, the SA/NT Branch of the National Malaya-Borneo Veterans Association unveiled a new memorial in the West Torrens War Memorial Gardens in tribute to those who served during the Malayan Emergency and Confrontation. The guest speaker for this ceremony on 22 April was Major Paul Rosenzweig (retired), a 32-year Army Reserve and Regular Army veteran who currently volunteers as an Officer with the Australian Air Force Cadets.
In his address Major Rosenzweig honoured the veterans: “Their service is an example to us all of the strength of bonds formed in adversity, and the successes that can be achieved through solid alliances and shared common values”.
Participating in commemorative events is now establishing ongoing alliances between Cadets and community and ex-Service organisations, through their shared common values.
Such participation gives Cadets the opportunity to honour the operational service of their family members, bridging the generations and laying a foundation of honour and respect which will follow them through their lives and careers.