Bruce Leonard PERKS

PERKS, Bruce Leonard

Service Number: 4905013
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: 9th Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment (9RAR)
Born: Kadina, South Australia, 7 October 1943
Home Town: Victor Harbor, Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia
Schooling: Victor Harbor Primary School, Victor Harbor High School, Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, University of Adelaide, South Australia
Occupation: Medical Practitioner
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Non Warlike Service

4 Jan 1968: Transferred Australian Army (Post WW2), Captain, 9th Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment (9RAR), Prior Reserve and Medical Undergraduate service

Vietnam War Service

4 Nov 1968: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Captain, SN 4905013, 9th Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment (9RAR)
5 Nov 1968: Involvement SN 4905013

Non Warlike Service

1 Jan 1970: Involvement

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Biography contributed by Annette Summers


1943 –

Bruce Leonard Perks was born in Kadina South Australia on the 7th October 1943 the eldest son of Leonard Charles Perks and Constance, nee Bruce of Kadina. His father, Leonard served in the RAAF during WW2 as a commissioned pilot with Beaufighter 30 Squadron at the battles of Morotai and Tarakan. 

Bruce's father’s military service led to the maintaining of a militaristic style of discipline in his family.  Consequently Perks, as a four and a half year old started in the family Victor Harbor newsagent and newspaper delivery business. Thus began a life of discipline, hard work and dedication for the young Perks. He had an innate desire to help people and dreamed of becoming a doctor after seeing the respect the returned soldiers and community had afforded the local doctor, a neighbour, Dr Graham Shipway.

Perks originally attended the local Victor Harbour Primary and High School. He was then educated at Prince Alfred College and won a Commonwealth Scholarship to study medicine at the University of Adelaide.  Due to the increasing ill health of his father, in 1964, Perks was encouraged to join the Australian Army undergraduate scheme to cover his study costs. Whilst studying he was posted to AUR and 3 FdAmb. He also spent time in Tarama Barracks in Port Moresby understudying the RMO 1 Pacific Islands Regiment.  He completed his medical degree in 1966 and completed his intern at the RAH for one year before transferring to the Australian Regular Army 4th January 1968. Perks was required to remain in the regular Army for a period of four years for his return of service obligation. During this time he was undertaking promotion courses and military exercises in preparation for deployment to Vietnam.  It was during an exercise in April 1968 that Perks received news of his father’s imminent death. He was refused permission for leave to see his father and never saw him alive again.

Perks, at the rank of Captain, left for Vietnam on 4th November 1968, as a RMO, with the 9 Bn RAR advance party, His severe myopia and serious recent injury to his right eye was not seen as a restriction for active service. Lieutenant Colonel Albert Morrison, who also suffered from medical conditions of his right eye, was the Commanding Officer of 9 Bn RAR which was based in Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy Province. Perks’ job was to maintain the health and morale of the soldiers of the battalion throughout its year-long tour of Vietnam. His primary role in the field was to maximise the chances of those injured in the field to survive the trip by helicopter to the 1 Aust FdHosp at Vung Tau for appropriate care and surgery.  It was during this time when treating many casualties, particularly involving minefield injuries, Perks, made the life changing decision to become an anaesthetist on his return to Australia.

Perks married Geraldine Naulty when he returned to Adelaide. They had corresponded continuously during his tour of Vietnam. Perks believes that this constant link to his future wife during his time in Vietnam contributed to his mental wellbeing and gave him that strong desire to survive.

The couple moved to Perth where Perks passed the basic cadre selection course and was posted to the Special Air Services Regiment (SAS) as its medical officer. He was promoted to Major in May 1970. He completed parachute training in July 1970; this included his legendary broken leg on a night descent. He served as a Staff Officer at Swan Barracks Headquarters during the latter part of 1971.  He commenced his part time studies as an anaesthetist whilst still in the army. Perks was awarded the Infantry Combat Badge, in the early 1970s, for combat resuscitation in 9 Bn RAR.

He was discharged, in Adelaide, from the regular army in 1972 and was immediately transferred to the Citizens Military Forces.  He continued his studies in anaesthetics and qualified in 1976.  He was then offered a Fellowship near Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He returned with his family to Australia in 1978 and set up a new anaesthetic group practice in Adelaide. The practice was eventually named the Specialist Anaesthetic Services and is still in operation.  Perks has three children, Nathan, Olivia and Eugenie, but his marriage to Geraldine Naulty ended in divorce in 1985.  He later married Johanna van der Spek in April 2000 and continues to live in Adelaide.

Perks continued his association with the army from 1978 in the CMF and then the Army Reserve.  He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, in 1979, and posted as the CO of 3 FdAmb. This was followed by promotion to Colonel and posted as CO to 3 AGH, in 1982. During this posting he organised the request to vary the establishment (RVE) from 3rd General Hospital to 3rd Forward General Hospital, which came into effect in 1989, which eventually became 3rd Health Support Battalion (3HSB). Perks became the Honorary Colonel RAAMC for South Australia, in 2004 and subsequently Representative Honorary Colonel RAAMC in Australia during the period 2007 to 2009.

Bruce Perks has many interests and held memberships of several organisations. He was the inaugural chairman of the Australian Shareholder’s Association between 1996 and 2000, and became President of the Adelaide Beefsteak and Burgundy Club in 2015.

Whilst Representative Honorary Colonel of the RAAMC, Perks initiated the Army Health Services Historical Research Group, a sub-group of the Army Museum of South Australia, with the aim of preserving the history of the RAAMC. This group has produced one book Blood, Sweat and Fears: Medical Practitioners and Medical Students who served in World War 1, and hope to continue to bring the history of the medical services during Australian conflicts to civilian attention.

Perks retired from the military in 2010 after 46 years of medical military service.  He was awarded the Australian Active Services Medal 1945-1975  (clasp Vietnam), the General Service Medal 1962 (clasp Vietnam), the Australian Service Medal 1945-1975 (clasp PNG), the Reserve Forces Decoration, the National Medal, the Australian Defence Medal, Vietnam Medal 1960.


Blood, Sweat and Fears II: Medical Practitioners of South Australia on Active Service After World War 2 to Vietnam 1945-1975.

Summers, Swain, Jelly, Verco. Open Book Howden, Adelaide 2016

Uploaded by Annette Summers AO RFD