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Warrant Officer Dave Ashley's eulogy at the funeral service for WO1 Wally Thompson, OAM

Warrant Officer David Ashley delivers a eulogy at the funeral service of Australia's first RSM-A Warrant Officer Wally Thompson OAM.

On Friday, 27 April 2012, the first Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army, Warrant Officer Class One Wally Thompson, OAM was farewelled during a funeral service at the Garrison Church in the Rocks, Sydney. During the service, the current Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army, Warrant Officer Dave Ashely delivered a eulogy.

Download a copy of the eulogy.

FRI 27 APRIL 2012

Warrant Officer Class One Wally Thompson, OAM – Record of Service:

1950 to 1954 Citizen Military Forces, Conscripted under the National Service Scheme

1954 – Enlisted in the Australian Regular Army and posted to the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, serving with the Battalion on operations in Malaya.

1961 to 1963 – Posted to the British Army Jungle Warfare School

1963 to 1964 – 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment.

1964 to 1965 – Australian Army Training Team – Vietnam

1965 to 1967 – Sydney University Regiment

1967 – Headquarters 10 Task Force (Company Sergeant Major – Headquarters Company).

1968 – 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (Company Sergeant Major, Charlie Company). Second tour of duty in South Vietnam, Wally’s Son, Brett tells me this appointment was a great highlight of Wally’s career. Fought at the Battle of Coral, Wounded and returned home.

1969 to 1970 – Infantry Centre, Company Sergeant Major Battle Wing

1970 to 1973 – Regimental Sergeant Major 4th Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment. Third tour of duty in South Vietnam

1973 to 1974 - Regimental Sergeant Major Jungle Training Centre

1975 to 1979 – Regimental Sergeant Major School of Infantry. This is where I, as a brand new Infantryman, first met Wally.

1979 to 1981 – Regimental Sergeant Major Training Command

1981 to 1982 – Regimental Sergeant Major 1st Task Force, renamed Headquarters 1st Brigade during Wally’s tenure.

1983 – Appointed first Regimental Sergeant Major – Army

1987 – Retired after 37 years service to Army and our Nation.

Wally was awarded the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star for action with 3rd/5th Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division.

Wally was recognised by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second in the 1977 Queens Birthday Honours List with the Medal of the Order of Australia.

Wally’s connection with Army didn’t end there. He continued to serve in support of Army and our soldiers for the remaining 25 years of his life. It is not surprising that over the past week or so, Army have been talking about Wally and his commitment. Many though are surprised that Wally retired a quarter of a century ago. He feels very much with us and has done since his retirement. He will continue to be with us in the years to come. I can think of no other, general or soldier, that have had this ongoing positive presence and impact. Wally’s service in fact totals 62 years and will continue.

Wally was a giant soldier. He will always be remembered as a giant soldier.

Courage, Initiative, Teamwork. These are Armies inherent values. Wally lived these values well before they were formally stated. Courage, Initiative, Teamwork were a mirror reflection of Wally Thompson.

Wally was a great leader and the example of the Regimental Sergeant Major. He seldom gave orders or direction. He didn’t need to. When a soldier was in the wrong, Wally’s mere distant presence would snap him into the right. This is a great soldiers’ example of the respect Wally was, and is, held in. Wally led by example, which in our egalitarian Army is the most effective form of soldier leadership. Wally is a mentor, and will remain so, for Army’s current crop of RSMs, very much including me. While I met Wally only on a few occasions when we were both in uniform, but more so after Wally retired Wally’s example has a very profound effect on me. Wally was not a ‘do this’ RSM, but a ‘do as I do and follow me’ example.

I can’t speak for the RSM-As that followed Wally, but as the ninth RSM-A, I can state that even though I will try my hardest, I will never be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with Wally Thompson. But I also know that Wally would want me to and would leave a space for me at his shoulder. I will try my hardest because I want to be like Wally Thompson. I want to serve our soldiers, Army and my country like Wally did.

Wally Thompson taught me, and thousands of other soldiers – the true value of respect.

Wally was a major figure in Army after the end of the War in Vietnam. After that War we entered a long period of peace. It was Wally Thompson, and men like him, who are in many ways largely responsible for the Army we are today, through their professionalism, experience, example and focus. An Army that wins in battle and produces recipients of the Victoria Cross, and Army whose young people, some barely out of their teens, are prepared to go and lend a helping hand to others in need at home and abroad. Wally’s example supports us as we demonstrate war winning and national behaviours from every soldier an expert in close combat to every soldier demonstrates compassion.

Wally’s son Brett, has asked me to read a Kipling poem which speaks of Wally. As I read this poem last night, I could feel Wally in it’s bones.

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Judith, Brett, Scott, Catherine and Elizabeth – on behalf of Lieutenant General David Morrison, Chief of Army, the over 46500 men and women, regular and reserve of our Army, the many tens of thousand former soldiers, and from those gathered here today to honour Wally – thank you for your husband and father – we are all with you always.

Wally was not just an Australian soldier – he is the Australian soldier.

I remember Wally with pride, I remember him in faith. He will always be my mate and I thank him for showing us our opportunities.

God bless you Wally – God bless your family.

Your duty is done – Rest in Peace

Duty First !