HMAS LEEUWIN Bastardisation at JRTE?

 

Page 4..... Bastardisation at JRTE?

 

bas·tard·ise (bàs¹ter-dìse´) verb, transitive bas·tard·ised, bas·tard·is·ing, bas·tard·is·es To lower in quality or character; debase. — bas´tard·i·sa¹tion (-ter-dî-zâ¹shen) noun

 

The JRTE was not unique in this regard and many military establishments in the past have come under close scrutiny for allegations of bastardisation. Our own, elite, Military College, Duntroon, in Australia has on more than one occasion been investigated.

 

It is probably a part of many military organisations and will more than likely remain as long as military training establishments exist. Although the degrees of it are and will be, rightly, scaled down in this age of litigation and accountability. I do not and have never condoned Bullying or criminal acts but lesser forms of what some may call 'bastardisation' will possibly always be present.

 

Sometime late in 1971 the Government held an enquiry into the Conduct of JRTE, it was headed by Judge Rapke. What the outcomes and findings were I do not know for I was already gone and was just relieved that I had come through, at least physically unscarred, some called it bastardisation, those of us who went eagerly out into the fleet and beyond called it 'Character Building'.

 

I can't remember with too much detail the many acts of bastardry that we inflicted upon each other on a day to day basis at JRTE, perhaps psychologically my brain refuses to recall some of the more traumatic events. But I do know that at times it was exhaustive to the point of collapse and that there were periods where an individual or group would live in abject terror.

 

Forms of everyday commonly accepted bastardisation included being ordered or forced to spit polish someone's boots, iron his clothes, clean his webbing, scrub his cubicle, make his bunk and other personal domestic chores. Being made to carry out excessive and physically demanding tasks. Public verbal attacks and belittling of ones physical appearance, mannerisms, character or parentage. Being intimidated and humiliated by being forced to perform publicly i.e. sing, recite poetry etc. whilst being pelted with refuse. The 'srubbing' of grubs.

 

Some of the more frightful and degrading forms could be, being forced to lick a urinal clean in the heads or licking someone's boots clean, or just being 'filled in' for the pleasure of it. These excesses were, thankfully, rare but did indeed go on. These acts of terrorism were carried out by small groups of 'Bullies' and were not condoned by the mainstream.These individuals would have been Bullies no matter what vocation they chose in life. On a positive note the one thing the navy did was not to let them get away with it for long for it was unacceptable practice in all the ships in which I served and these blokes got their dues should they persist once in the 'Fleet'.

 

Thankfully and I am pleased to say that my Division, Morrow division, whilst always in trouble for good-natured larks, did not have a core of these human trash and standover merchants that all were in fear of but we did suffer at the hands of some. Some victims of this extreme anti social behavior suffered badly and I have witnessed personally some of the less stronger willed sob themselves to sleep at night curled up in the fetal position in their bunks. Our weapon against this was the support of our mates. One had to have mates, respect and loyalty for one another and self respect plus one had to be a team player to survive mentally as well as physically. To allow yourself to be stripped of your self respect or self esteem would put you on the downhill slide and at times it tested the strength of your characters to its limits.

 

There were at times during our stay where word would filter down to our block, that some 'Mouth/s' from the Division had been disrespectful to a notorious member/s of a Senior Intake or had been the cause, rightly or wrongly, of his being caught by authorities for an indiscretion. The consequences were that you could expect to be 'raided' that or some other night. In darkness they would stealthily enter the block and 'Fill In' JRs in their bunks.

 

No names here for they are irrelevant today. One particular group of these bastards was at last exposed when they broke into the Ship's Company Canteen one night and robbed it. They were caught with only a couple of weeks to go before they were due to 'Pass Out'. The Navy wasted little time in getting rid of them and discharged them (dishonourably) almost immediately. No one was sorry to see them go and for many it was an enormous relief. Many in our Division had been harassed by this group, including me. One night in the recreation room they had even stabbed one of our own Division's LJRs, puncturing his lung. Some did say that he deserved it though for being such a power crazy and hard to get along with mongrel.

 

Discharges did not come easily and unless you committed a very nasty crime, for which you may be discharged 'dishonourably', there was generally no way out. You signed the dotted line for the minimum and mandatory enlistment period of 12 years and that was that. The idea of 'I don't like it here anymore' was never seriously entertained and would only cause you more harassment. It would be easier to get paroled from a life prison sentence. Desertion was out of the question for it was pretty hard to sneak across the Nullabor Plain unnoticed. If you did manage to 'escape' a Warrant would be issued Australia wide for your arrest. You would eventually be hunted down by the Naval Police who would be busy 'Staking Out' your parents, grandparents, girlfriends home or any other abode or establishment you may be known to frequent. They would catch you, return you and punish you.

 

Running The Gauntlet

 

Not long after arriving we witnessed our first Gauntlet, the senior JR Intake, Stevenson Division, decided that since as they were now Top Shit and there were only 100 of them it was time to teach the next lowest intake below them, the 200 strong Shit, a lesson. Stevenson Division (Stevo) were accommodated on the deck below us (ground floor) and we as a lower intake were forcibly made to witness the brutality and humiliation of the event.

 

Raiding parties made up of the more brutal thugs of Stevo Division scattered to find members of the targeted intake and bring them forcibly and sometimes bound, to the entrance of their block. Once there they would be made to run the length of the dormitory to the relative safety of the fire escape door at the other end, a distance of 30 or 40 meters down a narrow passageway. Simple enough, but lined along the passage were JR's with all types of hand held weapons, hockey sticks, pillow cases with boots inside, broom handles, cricket bats, etc. The trick was to stay on your feet, cover your head and face, and blindly keep going. To go down could have disastrous consequences. Most made it out with minor cuts and bruising, some however, the more well known and disliked, suffered fairly worse injuries, broken noses, arms, collar bones, teeth etc. It wasn't until an unexpected and sudden increase in traffic to the sick bay that alerted staff to the events taking place on the bottom deck of C Block before it was stopped.

 

The entire 86 JRs of Stevenson Division were, on parade the next morning, 'Offed Caps' in front of all the JRTE whereupon the Commodore read their punishment, they, en masse, received the maximum award punishment without having a 'Warrant' read. 14 days Number 9's, 30 Days Stoppage Of Leave, $10.00 Fine plus stoppage of pay and a few other minor things thrown in. So the entire 86 of them made the defaulters line fairly long for the next month or so. We on the other hand who were forced to witness the carnage were promised 'pay back' by the unfortunates for just for having been there, and look out if you had been seen smiling or laughing.

 

The Naval Hierarchy did not in any way condone Bastardisation as one can see by this type of punishment. Everyone knew it existed for everyone had suffered it at some stage. Some ranked in lower levels, however, were drunk with sadistic power. Although, the worst enemy of JRs at Leeuwin was, unfortunately, the boys themselves. Promoting competition and rivalry is great when training military people but it does have its dark side.

 

One In - All In

 

The everyday Naval way of punishing JRs summarily was that the whole group would suffer for the indiscretions of an individual or for the more sadistic instructor exactly the opposite, he would punish the class whilst excluding the offender. If we had an habitual offender within our class then some instructors would warn us that unless we took matters in to our own hands the class would continue to suffer. For one classmate's failure to consistently comprehend the task or inability to physically or mentally carry out the order. In effect we would be told to 'fill him in' and make him 'wake up to himself!'. Some thugs did take this opportunity to carry out 'legal' beatings, most did not. PT and Gunnery classes could be notorious for this form of 'dogwatch instruction'. If any have seen the movie 'A Few Good Men' then a milder and less authorative JR equivalent of a 'Code Red' did certainly exist, the idea being to frighten him out of his wits and maybe a thick ear to go along with, of course not do do serious harm and certainly not to kill him.

 

JRs whose antics continued to cause grief, or embarrassment for their class, division or intake would be certainly 'worded in' by their peers -" cease or be 'filled in!'"

 

Filling a bloke in was more preferable to dobbing someone in. No one liked Naval Regulators, Naval Police, Masters Art Arms or Coxswains, collectively known as crushers. So you didn't give each other up to the law, instead you would administer your own code of 'messdeck justice'. Unless of course he was a thief then he would be filled in, maybe have some fingers broken also, then given up to the crushers.

 

Personalized Bastardisation

 

During my early days I became the target, every morning on the parade ground, and in the Dining Hall, for one JR Mace. Now I wasn't the smallest JR at Leeuwin, just touching 5 feet and weighing in wringing wet at 112 pounds but I was indeed not the largest. So JR Mace, from a more senior intake and about the same size as me, singled me out as his daily victim and with the solid support of his band of 4 or 5 other larger mates embarked on a mission to make my life intolerable. Intimidation, violence, verbal abuse, deliberately soiling or disheveling my uniform so as to invite punishment, psychological abuse, well, I had grown up with an older brother, sort of been there done that. But it was making my life a misery.

 

But then there was sport, the great leveler.

 

Up until now my problems with JR Mace had been insolvable I had unwritten laws to abide by and since I could not hope to defeat so many of his mates who were constantly with him they exploited their moral ascendancy to the maximum, at my expense.

 

One day after classes I returned to the blocks to read the main notice board about the up coming, bi annual, Inter-Divisional Boxing Tournament, fancied myself a bit, and whacked my name down.

 

Some days later when reading the draw for the tournament I was ecstatic. Someone 'up there' was looking after me for I saw that for my first bout I had drawn JR Mace. I was also apprehensive for I couldn't afford to lose. My life would become more of a misery.

 

Over the next few weeks every JR would train in the pugilistic arts. The (Nightly) Boxing Tournaments were high on the social calendar at JRTE and victory in them guaranteed some respect from unexpected quarters. The bouts were fought according to Australian Amateur Boxing Rules and were the two Gala Events of the year.

 

Standing in our corners, arms outstretched along the top rope, facing each other the bell rings for the first round and I sprint from my corner to Maces' in an instant, catching him cramped in his corner, surprised, and off balance, my first left lands firmly on his nose, it immediately blossoms and swells spraying bright red blood. The sight of the blood and him desperately trying to cover up tells me that this is my chance and I continue to punish him in a frenzy of punches until the referee finally tears him away from me, bundles him out of the ring and declares me the winner by TKO.. I am covered in his blood, totally exhausted, and elated. That period of less than 30 seconds of my life, was to make my mornings no less busy but a lot less stressful. He was to stay well clear of me after that and even copped ridicule from his 'tough guy' mates. I continued on my winning way and was beaten on points in the Flyweight final.

 

jrte2.jpg

Above: One of my bouts in the Boxing Tournament.

 

Others in similar situations solved their problems with a tormentor in the boxing ring or on another type of playing arena.

 

JRs who could, not necessarily excel, but hold their own, bravely, on a sports field were generally treated with respect from all, although this is not uniquely a naval attitude but a civilian one in Australian society too. In effect it really helped if you were good at something, be it Academics, tying knots or cap tallies, spit polishing boots, football, sailors folk art, being good at something meant that you had self-worth, you were respected and needed. A few of us were good at less noble pursuits, more about that later.

 

Other extreme forms of bastardry included aggravated robbery

Not many members of a Senior Intake would engage in this practice, however some of the more unscrupulous and less 'ethical' did. It was permitted to go on for it was also an unwritten law that you did not interfere with another of your intake when he was bastardising a member of a Junior Intake. That was a no-no, however embarrassed or ashamed of it you may feel. You could have a word in private if you knew the bloke but never question him publicly.

 

This practice is where members of the Senior Intake stand outside the canteen taking money by threat of violence from Junior Intake JRs as they leave the canteen. Ethics of the day were no taking of banknotes but all loose change in your pockets was fair game. On a wage of $10.00 per fortnight one could ill afford to leave the canteen with one dollar in coins in one's pocket. Sometimes if a member of the ship's company was there you could leave when he did walking close to him whilst under the resentful gaze of the 'muggers'. Or the best way was simply not to have any change at all.

 

Of course Cigarettes were fair game and it was sometimes a brave JR that refused to give a Senior Intake JR a smoke when he demanded it. At the very least you were destined to spend your life at the end of the 'Scan Line' (dinner queue).

 

Senior Intake members after having eaten their dinner would then loiter at the head tables in the dining hall, having shifted the majority of condiments, butter, jam, vegemite and the like to their table and/or commandeering the tea urn. They were then free to sit back and pick and choose who they would harass and keep moving to the back of the line, all the time the selected victims are being pushed, shoved, intimidated and verbally abused. Once you were finally permitted to get what remained of dinner it was then up to you whether you needed things like salt, pepper, butter or a cup of tea for that would all be in the possession of one of the senior intakes. One had to grovel and perhaps part with a cigarette or a promise to spit polish or lick his boots, to get the required item.

 

One had to be careful how one addressed people for being labeled a 'mouth' was a pretty grave situation. There were various forms of 'mouths' but if you were a 'smart arsed mouth' it was only a matter of time until someone rearranged your face for you.