Johannes Cornelis (Hans) FLEER AM, DCM

FLEER, Johannes Cornelis

Service Number: 44041
Enlisted: 2 May 1966, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 2nd Special Air Service Squadron
Born: Leiden Zuid, Holland, 27 April 1949
Home Town: Tootgarook, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Schooling: Rose Park School and then Adelaide High School
Occupation: Soldier
Died: Melanoma, Frankston Hospital, Victoria, 5 April 2013, aged 63 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Victorian Garden of Remembrance
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Vietnam War Service

2 May 1966: Enlisted Australian Army (Post WW2), Adelaide, South Australia
21 May 1968: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), 44041, 4th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (4RAR)
15 May 1969: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), 44041, HQ 1st Australian Task Force, Vietnam
2 Jul 1969: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), 44041, HQ 1st Australian Task Force, Vietnam
8 Jul 1969: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), 44041, 1st Australian Reinforcement Unit, Vietnam
9 Oct 1969: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), 44041, 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR)
17 Feb 1971: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Corporal, 44041, 2nd Special Air Service Squadron

Tough Love

Hans took great pleasure in my misery. He was my DS on the majority of my suite of courses... He expected more of the NCOs and would torment us continually by adding that little extra pressure and attention to detail... Then as an instructor, he tormented me more and made me Corporal punishment, finding faults purposely so i had to go and lead the punishments, then a quiet " is there a problem Corporal in his FROSTY voice, with the subtle hint of a smile,, he also enjoyed appearing out of nowhere and scaring me shitless.... He took genuine interest in his junior commanders and was not interested in problems , just solutions..... I had to pinch Capt Brammers false teeth, just to make him smile, but when you made him smile, it felt good..... Tough Love .... Thankyou for your Mentorship, Sir.....

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Biography contributed by Robert Kearney

 Colonel Fleer AM, DCM Honorary Colonel 2nd Commando Regiment

 Memorials:   Hans Fleer Centre, Holsworthy, New South Wales 

                      SASR Garden of Reflection, Campbell Barracks, Western Australia

                      Victorian Garden of Remembrance, Springvale, Victoria



Tribute by Mr  HAMILTON-SMITH ( Waite) (15:21):

"There are many South Australians who have made their mark on the nation, some in politics, science, law or the arts. Some of our greatest achievers have been in academia. Many have been recognised and achieved amidst great fanfare. Then there is Hans Fleer AM DCM, who passed away on 5 April. The Victorian Police Academy Chapel at Glen Waverley was packed with soldiers, former soldiers and family. We were all there because we loved this man—a quiet achiever, stoic friend, valiant soldier, loving father and husband, and good mate of so many of his comrades in arms.

Hans Fleer was the Honorary Colonel of the 2nd Commando Regiment, but he was much more. His father, John, and mother, Ann, arrived with Hans from the Netherlands in August 1956 on the ship Johan van Older Barne Feld. Arriving by train at Woodside, the family later moved to Adelaide where Hans attended school in Glenelg before the family moved to a farm in Maitland for around three years, later returning to Adelaide.

Hans then went to school in Rose Park and at Adelaide High School. He was a high-achieving sportsman who joined the Army Cadets at the age of 17, and then the Regular Army. It was 1966. Hans Fleer went on to serve in the 3rd, 4th and 6th Battalions of the Royal Australian Regiment. I served with him in the Special Air Service Regiment in the 1970s and 1980s and drew him back into the army from his initial farming sojourn in 1991-92 while serving as Commanding Officer of the 1st Commando Regiment. He went on to serve proudly in 4 RAR and the 2nd Commando Regiment and in other units.

Hans served in Vietnam from 21 May 1968 until 12 May 1970—two full tours of duty back to back, punctuated by a short period of a few weeks' leave. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, one short of the Victoria Cross. As The Australian reported on Anzac Day this year, on a steamy February afternoon in 1970, nine of Fleer's mates were shot down by Viet Cong, including the commander and the signaller. The Ice Man directed the remaining diggers to cover him while he ran into machine-gun fire on what looked like a suicide mission to rescue injured mates. His unit citation says:

...with complete disregard for his own safety, Hans Fleer moved out under covering fire from his section to initiate the recovery of wounded men. Until this day no-one knows how the hail of bullets missed Hans who, after rescuing the wounded, led the safe withdrawal of his savaged platoon.

 Page 5762 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY Thursday 16 May 2013

Those of us who served with Hans knew an understated giant of a man who rarely talked about himself. He was too busy helping others. Hans's patrol commander in Vietnam, Graham Brammer OAM, said this:

Hans was the consummate professional...I led Hans in war time, followed him in peace time and was his friend for all the time I knew him...He had a way of drawing the best out of his subordinates and always made underachievers feel like they were capable of much more...He was the epitome of a leader.

He led by example, would never give a subordinate a task he wasn't prepared to do himself and was always seeking a better outcome for soldiers to achieve their potential. He was honest to a fault with the highest order of integrity I found in any officer or soldier in my 30 years of service. Without doubt, Hans was the most humble man I knew in my lifetime. He avoided recognition of any kind where possible and his appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia was an honour he accepted with reluctance after a great deal of subtle pressure was applied through various sources.

In acknowledging Hans' contribution to South Australia and this proud nation, I make special mention of his wife, our dear friend Helen, his children, Michael and Melanie, and his mother, Ann, all of whom represented him so proudly at the funeral. I also want to recognise the sterling job done by Hans' good mates Rick O'Hare and Graham Brammer at the service.

Hans Fleer was part of the Vietnam generation, but he was young at heart and very much part of today. Hans grew from a brave young South Australian soldier into a father figure in Australian Special Forces. Generals and soldiers, both young and old, came from far and wide—the United States, the Middle East and elsewhere—to say goodbye. Hans helped take young soldiers from the jungles of Vietnam through counter-terrorism onto the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. He brought together the soldierly qualities of moral courage, mental toughness, a dry wit and a sense of mateship. Every one of us whose life he touched was better for having walked beside him. I bring Hans Fleer before the parliament today as an example of the sort of South Australian and Australian we might all aspire to be."

Tribute  as recorded in Hansard Thursday 16 May 2013

Special plea:  On the final parade at the Officer Cadet School, Portsea, Victoria, Officer Cadet Fleer was awarded the Sword of Honour as top cadet in his class.

Some years after graduating he loaned the sword to a fellow officer for a wedding at Singleton NSW and the sword has never been returned.

As sometimes happens, the person who borrowed the sword depite good intentions has over the passage of time forgotten it. Colonel Fleer's wife and family would be pleased to hear from either the person who borrowed the sword or anyone who may know how they can arrange to have it returned.

Note: The last unit in which Lieutenant Colonel Fleer served before discharge was 2nd Commando Regiment, Holsworthy, Australia.

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