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Group says national service a win for all

The National Servicemen's Association marches at the Anzac Day parade in Stanthorpe this year.
The National Servicemen's Association marches at the Anzac Day parade in Stanthorpe this year. Liana Turner

FOR some, the notion of compulsory time with the armed forces is one of great contention.

But for Stanthorpe man Des Fossey and many of his peers, it was something to be proud of and something which enriched society.

Mr Fossey is the current secretary/treasurer and former president of the National Servicemen's Association of Australia Stanthorpe Branch.

The branch was formed just 17 years ago, a mere blip compared to some organisations. Mr Fossey said it was important to recognise and honour the value of national service.

He encouraged anyone who'd undertaken national service and wasn't yet involved with the group to sign up.

"We're currently holding about 40 members that's with wives supporting us and everything,” Mr Fossey said.

The Menzies government introduced the National Service Act in 1951 amid an intensifying Cold War in Europe, communist success around South-East Asia and the beginning of the Korean War. This saw men turning 18 on or after November 1, 1950, conscripted for training for 176 days.

Stanthorpe National Servicemen's Association secretary and treasurer Des Fossey.
Stanthorpe National Servicemen's Association secretary and treasurer Des Fossey. Liana Turner

National Servicemen trainees remained on reserve for five years after their initial call-up. The first men were called up on April 12, 1951.

More than 500,000 men registered and 227,000 were trained from 52 intakes between 1951 and 1959.

"When we turned 18, we had to register, we had no choice,” Mr Fossey said.

They did, however, get the opportunity to elect their preference, and Mr Fossey chose the Army when he registered in Wacol in 1955.

"The army got the biggest majority and they had three months full time duty plus two years back in their local area,” he said.

While his service didn't take him away from Australian shores, Mr Fossey was on standby for the Korean War and said it was a great opportunity to serve the country.

"I reckon it was great,” he said.

"It was the greatest time I ever had in my life.

"I reckon they should keep it going and every National Serviceman you talk to, they think the same.”

Mr Fossey said the discipline they had to embrace as part of their service was something much of society could benefit from today.

"One big thing we learned was discipline,” he said.

But he said the mateship he found during his time with the Army was unsurpassed.

"The camaraderie was unreal,” Mr Fossey said.

He still keeps in touch with some of his mates from this time, with one as far away as Townsville and another having found a lifelong career in the Australian Defence Force.

Topics:  national service

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