3rd Battalion
Royal Australian Regiment
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3rd Battalion
Royal Australian Regiment

Roll of Honour
Lt David John Brian

 Lieutenant David John Brian
      3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment

David Brian was born and raised in Sydney. He attended Sydney Boys’ Grammar School where he joined the School Cadets and was promoted through the ranks becoming the Under Officer for his final year. He excelled at rugby union and many sports as well as academically winning the schools prize for the ‘Best All Round’ student in 1955.  David was accepted into the Royal Military College, Duntroon in 1956.

David’s ability on the rugby field was soon recognised and although a junior cadet he played for the very successful College ‘Colts’.  This ability and his courage on the rugby field was highly respected and has always been remembered by his colleagues. Over the next two years he suffered serious head injuries playing rugby to the point where he was unable to complete the academic course. In 1958 he transferred to the Officer Cadet School, Portsea continuing as a sportsman and leader. In his final term he was appointed the Colour Sergeant of the Company of Officer Cadets and graduated into the Corps of Infantry in December that year.

In February 1959 he joined the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Holsworthy, NSW before being transferred to 13 National Service Training Battalion where he served as a platoon commander until January 1960.  Returning to the 2nd Battalion he was detached to the 4th Battalion, Ingleburn, and NSW as a Platoon Commander/Instructor before returning to his parent unit.

In mid-1960 he was posted to the Infantry Centre at Ingleburn as an instructor where he remained until March 1962 when he joined the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in Enoggera, Queensland. In September 1962 he and Sara (Sally) Chapman married and settled in Brisbane.

The 3rd Battalion was ordered to Malaysia in July 1963 as the Australian combat battalion in 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade, Terendak Garrison, and Malacca, Malaysia. David deployed with the battalion as the Platoon Commander of 11 Platoon, D Company. Wives and families accompanied the members of the battalion.

In February 1964 the 3rd Battalion was ordered to conduct a clearing operation in the Malay-Thai border region of Malaysia. On the 5 March 1964 David was killed while on patrol.  His body was returned to Terendak Garrison where he was the first person to be interred in the newly established Terendak Garrison Cemetery. Throughout his life David always retained his love of family, the Army and sport, especially rugby union, where he excelled.

David’s wife, Sara, was seven months pregnant at the time of the death of David. For medical reasons she was unable to attend the funeral and was immediately flown home to Australia. Following a very difficult birth a boy was born to David and Sara. He was named David after his dad and he went on to Graduate from the Royal Military College in 1988 serving some 20 years in the Army including in Somalia and Timor-Lesse. Sara remarried and she and her husband have now retired to Queensland.

Lieutenant David John Brian will be reinterred in the ANZAC Section of Pinnaroo Cemetery, Bridgeman Downs, Queensland on 10 June 2016.

April 2016

Contact details: Sara Ferguson

Dear Tony,

Our sincere thanks for all that you have done to date.  We also understand that the 3 RAR Association (Corporation) may be proving some battalion members to form part of the Honour Guard at the Ramp Ceremony.

By way of a little background we have been involved in the repatriation of all 32 soldiers and family members  who will be returned to home shores on 2 June 2016.  My now husband, also David, undertook to compile the comprehensive submission to Government principally in consultation with the VVFA.  In November 2014 it was concurrently sent to  the Government and some fifty other senior Australians. The submission received the strong  support of Senator Michael Ronaldson (Victoria), the then Minister for Veterans Affairs, the then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott MP, principals from all political parties  and almost without exception all the senior Australians.  That action  saw the  success of this very important initiative and a Federal Government announcement  in May 2015.

We trust the return in June of our fellow Australians, soldiers and family members, who were tragically lost during the commitment of our great country in Malaysia and Vietnam will bring closure to those families that have agreed to their return. May they all rest in peace.

As you requested I have attached a short resume of the life and service of my wonderful husband,  Lieutenant David John Brian, Platoon Commander, 11 Platoon, D Company, 3 RAR.

With warm regards to all, Sara Ferguson 07 5497 5519

Follow up Received 6th June 2016

Good Evening Everyone,

Following an emotional but wonderful Ceremonies in Malaysia and  at RAAF Richmond to welcome home all those interred in Terendak  Lieutenant David Brian 3 RAR will be laid to rest on home shores in a grave side ceremony in the ANZAC Section of Pinnaroo Cemetery commencing at 10.30 on Friday 10 June 2016.
The Army officiating Chaplin is  Chaplin Michael Quested.
The service will be a modified military  service  conducted by the Australian  Army, David’s family and military colleagues. Medals should be worn.
Sara and David Brian’s son, also David, and his family, together with David’s sister Helen and family and brother Peter and family will be present.
The service will be followed by a light lunch provided at the Pinnaroo facilities. All  welcome.

The Pinnaroo address is 294 Graham Road, Bridgeman Downs, 4035.  Tel: 3407 8136
Entry is best at the northern end of Graham Road and parking is inside the gate.
Should guests need to be dropped off drive straight ahead down to the Australian War Graves area.
The site is roadside directly opposite the Australian War Graves Memorial Gardens.
Limited seating will be available.
Currently the weather forecast is for fine weather with SE breezes 16-26 deg C.

The families of all those who have been returned  are deeply grateful to  Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Australian Defence Force for their planning and compassionate implementation. It has been outstanding.
The puff of smoke from the tyres of the RAAF C17’s  touching down on home shores and the movement of the caskets from the aircraft  by members of the three Services will be etched in their memories forever.
May all those who have been returned rest in peace.

See: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-29/widow-says-adf-repatriation-husband-killed-overseas-heal-hurt/7455182

Warmest regards,
Sara and David

Widow says repatriation of ADF husband killed overseas in 1964 will 'heal the biggest hurt'

ABC News: By Kristina Harazim
Posted Sunday 29 May 2016 at 1:24pm

Sara Ferguson with her son David Brianin 2007. (Supplied by Sara Ferguson)

A widow of one of 33 people, mostly defence force personnel, who were buried in conflict zones overseas in the 1960s says repatriating her husband's remains to Australia will "heal the biggest hurt" in her heart.

Thirty-three of the deceased will finally be farewelled on home soil when a full military ceremony is held at the Richmond RAAF base in Sydney on June 2.

It has been a long time coming for Sara Ferguson, whose late husband — 3RAR Lieutenant David John Brian — died while patrolling the Thai-Malay border in 1964.

Mrs Ferguson, who now lives in Queensland, said she and her late husband's son, David — who he never met — would attend the ceremony next Thursday.

"To know his bones are resting on Australian soil will just heal the biggest hurt in my heart," she said.

"I met David in Sydney — we dated for 18 months, we were engaged for 18 months, and we were married for 18 months.

"He was my first love — I thought he was my other half at the time."

Shock of Death Triggered Labour

Mrs Ferguson, who lived in Malaysia with Lieutenant Brian, was seven months' pregnant with their first child when he died at the age of 25.

The shock of her husband's death caused her to go into labour.

David Brian's funeral in Malaysia in 1964 (Supplied by Sara Ferguson)

"He'd been gone a few weeks and padre knocked on the door early one afternoon ... to tell me that David had been killed," she said.

"He asked me would I consent to David being buried up on the Thailand border and I said 'no, I'm taking him home'."

Mrs Ferguson said she had been devastated by the military's response.

"They just said: 'You can't take him home, you can't cremate him — we're burying him', so they did," she said.

Lieutenant Brian's funeral was held several days later at the military base at Terendak in Malaysia.

His wife was advised not attend because of her condition, but she paid her respects the following day.

"David's grave was the ... only one in the cemetery, which was really hard to live with," she said.

Second Marriage in 1966

Sara and David Ferguson's wedding on January 11, 1966 (Supplied by Sara Ferguson)

Mrs Ferguson met her second husband, Major General David Ferguson, on a visit to Malaysia a year later.

He served with the army in the same area as Lieutenant Brian and attended his funeral.

"I've never forgotten the day I was told that he'd been killed," Major General Ferguson said.

"I didn't know him other than having a beer, but I was certainly aware of his reputation — a fabulous footballer, stunning looking, just a great guy."

He said the government policy at the time was to bury soldiers where they fell.

"In January 1966 as a result of public outcry, the government changed its mind and said everybody comes home, but nothing was done for these people," he said.

Couple Mount Repatriation Campaign

The couple have since visited Terendak Military Cemetery in 2014.

"The place was barren and desolate — there wasn't a shrub, the grass was just about dead, there were weeds everywhere and the gravestones were in disrepair," Mrs Ferguson said.

"It was heartbreaking and I was absolutely devastated.

"The hardest thing I have ever done in my life was to actually walk away and leave him again."

It was then the couple decided to mount a repatriation campaign.

Major General Ferguson worked with Vietnam veterans' organisations to convince former prime minister Tony Abbott's government to bring home all 35 people buried in Malaysia and Singapore.

While the families of two declined the opportunity, the submission involving the rest had drawn bipartisan political support.

Veterans Affairs Minister Dan Tehan said he believed it was the right thing to do for the families and for the nation.

"This will give closure to these families," he said.

"They will get a respectful and a dignified return to Australia as they deserve."

The 3 RAR Internet site gratefully acknowledges the assistance of 101 design of Wollongong. www.101design.com.au