Tribute to WO2 John William “Jack” Roughley

My name is Chris Roughley and Jack Roughley is my Dad. Although I am approaching 70 he is still my hero. 

Dad was born in Manchester England on 2nd September 1930 the middle son of three boys. His mother Margret passed away from breast cancer in 1937. In June 1940 at 10 years of age “little Jackie” as he was known, was put on the ship “Aorangi” to Australia. He arrived in Sydney via Canada 2 months later and made his way to Fairbridge Farm in Molong NSW where he lived until he was 16. During that time he ran away 4 times and on the last at the age of 16 he was not brought back as he had gained employment as a farmhand some 40 miles from Fairbridge. 

After a variety of jobs he enlisted in the Australian Regular Army Special Reserve (Korea) known as K Force 26th May 1952. He served in Korea and Japan and was discharged on 1st April 1954 before promptly enlisted in the Australian Regular Army the very next day.  He had a variety of postings before being selected for service in the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) in 1962. Considered by his peers as one of the best Infantry Minor Tactics SNCO’s in the Army he was a natural choice who volunteered himself even before the verbal request was finished. 

Ever since I can remember I was in awe of my Dad. To me he was godlike; strong, brave and honest. I was 9 years old when he went to Vietnam for the first time. I missed him dearly, but he told me that he was depending on me to step up and be “the man of the house” a job I took very seriously.  

It was as a 12 year old boy when Dad was the CSM of Alpha Company 6 RAR sitting in his office one afternoon on school holidays that I came to see how much of a true soldier he was. In his extremely ordered office was an arrow of highly polished brass drawing type pins in a line on the floor in front of his desk. Sitting atop of his desk, directly in front of whoever was toeing the line, was a wooden hand with one finger protruding. I later found out this was called the Fickle Finger of Fate and directly in the soldier’s eye line was a perfectly formed Hangman’s noose just to reinforce the amount of shit you may have been in. 

I was always going to be a soldier. Why? Because my Dad was one. While he had other hopes for me, over the years he got used to the idea. Eventually a deal was made that I could join the Army as long as I got a trade and after that, I could do what I wanted. I joined the Army Apprentice School at Balcombe in January 1970 and Dad and I were in the same Army for 4 years although we never served in the same unit. I remember him saying that my graduation parade in December 1972 was the best he had ever seen only because he had always been on parades and never before had he been a spectator. 

We talked a fair bit in Dad’s later years about some of his experiences and the one thing that stuck with me was the love and respect he had for his soldiers. He always talked very fondly of his men and their antics. 

I can remember one time as a kid going to the see ‘Lord Jim’ at the Brisbane cinema with Dad when guess who should be walking out but a group of A Company diggers.  They saw Dad and went as white as ghosts. ‘What are you blokes doing here?… aren’t you supposed to be somewhere else or are you brushing up on your tactics?’  to which they all replied ‘tactics sir, tactics’ and beat a hasty retreat before we went in with Dad having a bit of a giggle to himself. 

That’s the type on man he was. If you made a mistake, big or small, the punishment always fitted the crime. It was then up to you to follow through and never mentioned again, unless you were silly enough to do it again. 

Not only was he a great soldier, he was a fantastic Dad. He taught me honesty, forthrightness, compassion and hard work things; that I hope I have not disappointed him in. Even today I feel immense pride when someone says to me ‘are you Jack Roughley’s boy?’  

This year Dad would have been 90 years old. Sadly he left me on 19 January 1984 at the young age of 53 years and 139 days, a life cut short by his dedication to duty. It is with a feeling deep inside me that is hard to put into words that I have a rum by myself on his special days with just Jack Roughley in my heart and my memories. 

This image is of my Dad, Jack Roughley (dec.) with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) conducting hand grenade practice with the local ‘Civilian Irregular Defence Group’ (CIDG). I think this image typifies the type of soldier this country produces; fit, professional and courageous. A tradition that is still alive in us today. (c/- Chris Roughley – son)

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