Frank MCLEAN MM

MCLEAN, Frank

Service Number: SX3278
Enlisted: 22 May 1940, Wayville, South Australia
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 2nd/27th Infantry Battalion
Born: Broken Hill, New South Wales, 31 December 1918
Home Town: Broken Hill, Broken Hill Municipality, New South Wales
Schooling: Public Schools, Broken Hill, Australia
Occupation: Employee (BHP Whyalla)
Died: 10 June 1990, aged 71 years, cause of death not yet discovered, place of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Centennial Park Cemetery, South Australia
Services Family, Rose Bed 3, Position 015
Memorials:
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World War 2 Service

22 May 1940: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Corporal, SN SX3278, 2nd/27th Infantry Battalion
22 May 1940: Enlisted 2nd AIF WW 2, Wayville, South Australia
7 Jun 1941: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Signaller, SN SX3278, 2nd/27th Infantry Battalion, Syria - Operation Exporter
15 Sep 1942: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Corporal, SN SX3278, 2nd/27th Infantry Battalion, Papua New Guinea - Kokoda
24 Sep 1945: Discharged 2nd AIF WW 2

The Barrier Miner, 4 February 1943

"Soldier Tells Of Terrors Of New Guinea Jungle"

The terrors of the jungle in New Guinea are not half so vivid as they appear in the civilian's imagination. There are very few snakes, fewer crocodiles, no wild animals !

This, at least, is the opinion of Private Frank McLean, AIF, who returned to Broken Hill on Tuesday. Private McLean saw service In New Guinea and was in the Owen Stanley Range engagements when Japanese pressure was broken and they were pushed back to Buna.

The worst jungle in New Guinea lies along this stretch.

"There are no wild animals there at all," said Pte. McLean, "and on the highest levels there seems to be no life in the jungle beyond the leeches. Lower down you find birds. The rat seems to be the only creature about.

"We saw very few snakes. A few, mostly non-poisonous, are found down towards the coast. We saw fewer crocodiles.

RAIN TERRIFIC

"The worst nuisances in the jungle are the mosquitoes and the rain," he continued. "Practically every mos- quito is malarial, and it is impossible to avoid being bitten. The rain is terrific. The rainy season lasts about six months, and during that season rain falls between 3 and 6 in the afternoon every day. It never misses a day and starts with such regularity you could set a watch by it. Three to four inches of rain would fall in an afternoon.

"It is scarcely possible to see ahead while the riin falls, and afterwards, of course, the ground is a quagmire. Once for three weeks at a stretch we were unable to change our clothes and had no time to take boots or socks off.

"The amazing thing was that under those conditions, with our constant wettings, no one seemed to catch cold. Fever was the only thing we could not keep off."

Pte. McLean, formerly of Broken Hill, and recently of Whvalla. en- listed in March. 1940. He saw active service in the Middle East, especi- ally in Syria, where he won ,the Military Medal.

"Because of the frightful nature of the country the Syrian campaign was very tough going for us," he said.

"But even these tough conditions'

were outclassed by those in New Guinea.

"The Japs are formidable foes. At first our men were inclined to under- estimate them, but we soon learned. They are inclined to be fanatical. If they are told to hold a position, they do so to the last man. But they can run, too. If they are told to retreat, that suits them, too.

JAP LIKE GERMAN

"There doesn't seem to be veery much difference between the German and the Jap as a soldier, especially as the Jap knows so many of the Ger- man methods.

"The Jap is certainly cruel. For this the natives, the fuzzy-wuzzys, hate them terribly, and if they ever get a Jap to themselves mete out dreadful punishment to them. When- ever we brought Jap prisoners in, they nearly went crazy. If they got one to themselves they would put a binder round him, march him till he dropped, and then drag him for a couple of days until they finished him off in their own particular way. When we got to them the Japs were always dead."

The most memorable part of his experiences, thought Pte. McLean, was the extraordinary camaraderie

and fellowship built up among the

men. "The boys showed a wonder- ful spirit of fellowship all the time. Undoubtedly this is what helped them to pull through against the odds."

Pte. McLean stayed with his bro- ther, Mr. A. McLean, and Mrs. Mc- Lean, of Chapple Lane.

Yesterday at the Sulphide Street Methodist Church at 4 o'clock he was married to Miss Audrey Aldrich, The

couple left on their honeymoon last '

night._


http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/49542559?

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The Barrier Miner, 3 January 1942

"B.H. Man Wins Military Medal"

SIGNALLER Frank McLean,

who is well known in Broken Hill, has been awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery during the Syrian campaign.

The award was announced in Adelaide yesterday coinciding with his 23rd,birthday.

He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. K. McLean, formerly of Block 10 cottages, and now of Whyalla.

He was born in South Broken Hill, and attended the Alma Public School for his early education, afterwards going to the High School for three years.

After leaving school he was employed in the offices of the B.H. Pty. Coy. and later was transferred to Whyalla. He enlisted in the A.l.F. in February. 1940.

Brothers are Messrs Jim (formerly of the local office of Bennett and Fisher and now of Murray Bridge) and Alister McLean, of Broken Hill.

Sig. McLean is the second Broken Hill man to distinguish himself in the. present war. Recently. Group-Capt. Lee, son of Mr. J. T. Lee, was awarded a bar to his D.F.C.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/48402950?

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The Barrier Miner, 25 September 1941



"Private F. McLean Writes From Syria"

In a letter received from Pte. Frank McLean, written last month, he says he is still in the best of health after being in action in Syria.

"We are at present stationed in some French barracks we took over, and they are quite nice and com- fortable. I can't tell you much about the fighting, because since we have been back here doing the old routine stuff once more I have almost for- gotten that we were ever in action, and most of the details are fast fad- ing from my mind. However, I can tell you that the country is pretty terrible, and we had a very tough time coming across the hills.

"Syria itself is quite a nice place and rather pretty in spots. I have seen some of the big towns and they are quite good. A few days ago I went to a town along the coast for a day's swimming, and it was extra good. The waves were running very high and it was good to see surf once more. A day at the beach is part of our rest programme, and it certainly is an event for us. We also had a good look in the town, and saw some ruins there dating from the time of the Crusaders. Yester- day I was on picket duty in Bey mouth, the main part in Syria, and we had quite a good time. Natur- ally we were on duty most of the time, but we had certain periods off for sightseeing."


http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/48406501?

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Biography

Excerpts from the official interview by Rob Linn, March 1990, 

for The Keith Murdoch Sound Archive of Australia in the War of 1939-1945

Corporal Frank McLean MM, 2nd/27th Battalion

 

And the story begins....

I was born on 31st December 1918, in Broken Hill, New South Wales, and spent all my early

years  there, going to primary school, and to high school. And in the mid-1930s I was

transferred to Whyalla, in South Australia, when Whyalla only had a population of about

eleven hundred people. And I enlisted from Whyalla in the air force, air crew, and it was

discovered that I was colour-blind. And they wanted to draft me into the air force

ground crew in the stores section, and I refused, and went straight across and was accepted by

the AIF.

 

....  In fact I'd - I think I tricked the BHP, because I ... you see, BHP at that time in

Whyalla was an exempt industry, and I enlisted for the air crew. And they said, 'Oh, you'll

never get called up there'. And they gave me a letter which said that I could enlist. But they

didn't say what I had to enlist in. Because they naturally assumed it would be the air crew,

and I wouldn't be going anyway. And of course when they found out I was colour-blind, I had

this letter, and I enlisted in the AIF, and I went back to the BHP, and they were ropeable

about it, because I'd got through their exempt industry.

And I think I had about a week with the BHP, and I left them. And they made up my salary

during the whole of the war.

He talks of his knowledge of the Great War.

Yes, I think I would have read Bean's whole history in the early 1930s. Because I was a great

- well we had nothing else to do in those days but read. And I was never really encouraged to

read, but I used to hide them in schoolbooks, and all that sort of business. 

His view on the war and Australia’s participation

I was all in favour of it. Very much so. I think we knew it. I was taking bets at the time, that

there would be a war. And I think most Australians at that time knew that that's what we

were going to do, you know. And I think that it was a very popular decision. Despite what

people might think, I think it was very popular at the time.

His family ‘s support his decision to enlist?

My mother did, my father thought I was a ratbag, yes (laughs). He said to me, 'I can't

understand it. I can't understand it', because he came from Scotland, but he had no interest in

that at that time, you know, and he couldn't see any reason.

 

Of his choice to join the 2nd/27th Battalion?

....  Another chap and I originally joined the 8th Div Sigs. Or we were drafted in

the 8th Div Sigs. And we were down here at [Featherton?], on guard duty, which was

ridiculous of course. And then we didn't like that at all, and we applied to join the 2/27th.

And our application was accepted, and we went up to Woodside, and joined the 2/27th.

His response to being asked if the fact that the 2/27th was a South Australian Battalion influenced his decision.

Yes, I think it did. Yes, and it had a very proud tradition, and so forth, I think that - we just

wanted to get out of the - as strange as it may seem, we wanted to get out of the sigs, and into

the infantry. Well we got into the sigs anyway, in the 2/27th, but it was - see you were - you

were sigs - infantry first, and sigs second, in an infantry battalion.

And he tells of an adventure that got him into a spot of bother.

 So we just walked out of our barracks one night. And we had about three days in Beirut.

And it was laughable, because Beirut was under martial law, and it was full of Australian

officers' uniforms. Walking around the place, all the French had their arms, they hadn't been

disarmed. And it was a city that, you know - it was laughable. And of course here were six

Australian soldiers. After about three days we were picked up by the Military

Police, shot back to our unit.  

 

But we had a fantastic time. We met George Silk, who was the Australian official

photographer, and he was about second to Damian Parer. You know... But we met him, he was there

on leave. We stayed at the  Hotel Napoleon in Beirut. And it was a beautiful city in those days, lovely city.

 

And then of course when we were transferred back to the unit, our CO, Colonel Moten, oh, he

was mad, you know, that six of - people from his top platoon .... And he gave us - had a

hearing, gave us fourteen days at the glasshouse in Jerusalem.

And anyhow he tricked himself, because he rang up, and they said it would take three days to

get down from Hammana to Jerusalem, and they would only take you in Jerusalem if you had

fourteen clear days. Well we'd have only had about ten or eleven, and they wouldn't take us.

Oh, and he went mad, he wanted them to break the rules.

And - anyhow, he, they said they never did, but they held it against us for about four or five

years afterwards, you know. None of us - I think - I got a bit of promotion, but they stripped

me of - I got another promotion in the field, in Syria, and they stripped me of that. .....

 

Describing how he came to be awarded a Military Medal.

....  the CO, and the brigadier, called me  up with our officer, and said that during the night two of

our companies had advanced about fifteen kilometres ahead, and they'd lost contact with them. And

they thought these two were engaged with the enemy. Anyhow the brigadier wanted to launch

something which I mentioned to you earlier was unheard of, a three battalion attack. And he had all

 the plans drawn up, and he wanted me, because of the previous day, to go and try and contact

these companies, into the forward areas.

And, anyway, they stripped me of all identification, and he gave me the plans, which I put in

my sock, and he said, 'Now, you know, I'll give you a limited time, to try and contact this

company. And if not ...' - or these companies - 'And if not, come back, and then lead the

battalion forward over this forward area'.

Well pretty early in the morning, and they wouldn't send me without - with any arms at all,

and I said I wasn't going if I didn't have some protection. So I took my officer's revolver, and

put that around my neck, and I set out. And I went out for about three or four hours, and I

found the companies alright, but there was a dry wadi separating us, and the French were

patrolling from one end, and the Australians were patrolling from the other, and across the - I

could see them, our two companies were attacking the French.

Well it would have been suicide to cross there, because either the French would have killed

me, or the Australians would have. And anyhow I knew where they were.

So I had an experience, I met some going through, because I ran all the way - but going

through I met some Arabs. I don't know what they were, and anyhow they couldn't speak

English, and they more or less intimated to me that, wearing the official shirt, that I, you

know, would be shot as a spy, sort of in it. And they offered to change their yellow cotton

shirt for my army shirt, and I did anything to sort of placate them.

And I took my shirt off, and of course when I did, they saw my revolver. Oh, and they

'ooh'ed, and 'aah'ed, and all this sort of .... And I had to make up my mind in a split second

decision, and I thought, 'Well there's three of them, and they could, you know, overrun me

anyway.' And one fellow asked, could he see the revolver, and I said, 'Yes'. So I took it off

my neck, and gave it to him, and they all played around with it, and they all kept slapping me

on the back, and so forth, and I had this yellow cotton shirt on. 

And anyhow I intimated to them that I was in a bit of a hurry, you know, and had to get going,

so they gave me the revolver back, I put it around my neck, and draped the shirt over it. And

it was one of the most foolish things probably I ever did in my life, but it paid dividends.

Anyhow I - when I located the companies I raced back to the CO, and he then had started to

move his companies - remaining company, and headquarters, and that, forward. And I told

him what had happened, and that I could take him to the companies. And anyway he - I did, I

led them right up to the companies, to this wadi. And we crossed the wadi after dark, and

rejoined our two forward companies.

And anyhow the RSM told me that night that I'd been put in for the DCM. And of course, as

you know, with the British they always knock a - knock it down. So I got an immediate MM,

and I think I was the first in the brigade to get it. But even at that time it didn't mean much. 

Note: The official citation states the Military Medal was awarded for : "High courage and devotion at HASSANIVE on 13 Jun 41" (Promulgated in the "London Gazette"on 30/12/41)

 

The full transcript of the interview can be found at:

http://static.awm.gov.au/images/Transcripts/S00905_TRAN.pdf (static.awm.gov.au)

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