Bendigo man has no regrets from East Timor service

TO Bendigo man John McKenzie-McHarg, Remembrance Day is a time of reflection. 

He said it was a day to commemorate the service of diggers gone by and the current service members both here and overseas. 

Mr McKenzie-McHarg joined the army as a 17-year-old who wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.

“My grandfather served in New Guinea and he used to tell war stories around the table when I was younger,” he said. 

“It all sounded good, until you go and do it.”

Mr McKenzie-McHarg was one of the first troops to be sent to East Timor in 1999. 

“I was attached to the 17 CSSB, which is a combat support unit,” he said. 

“I went to Timor in the first rotation, we were pretty lucky to get attached to a lot of the different units over there so we got to see a lot more of the island than what a lot of other people did.”

Mr McKenzie-McHarg said it was both an honour and an eye opener to go to East Timor. 

“It was hot and it was humid compared to what we are used to over here,” he said. 

“We didn’t have any amenities, 90 per cent of the country was destroyed, didn’t have a shower for a month and half. 

“Your clothes would deteriorate in the tropics. 

“It was a little bit hard but the locals were going through it a lot worse.”

Mr McKenzie-McHarg said after six months in East Timor he came back to Australia and decided to leave the army. 

He said he had no regrets from his time in the army and was proud of his achievements. 

Mr McKenzie-McHarg said he now works in the refrigeration trade and is expecting his first child in the next few weeks.

To commemorate Remembrance Day a service will be held at Bendigo’s RSL Soldiers Memorial Hall in Pall Mall tomorrow at 10.45am.

EYE OPENER: John McKenzie-McHarg joined the army at 17. Picture: PETER WEAVING

EYE OPENER: John McKenzie-McHarg joined the army at 17. Picture: PETER WEAVING


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