HARD TIMES: Gordon McKeen shares his story of trials and tribulations with the Australian military.
HARD TIMES: Gordon McKeen shares his story of trials and tribulations with the Australian military.

Local army veteran shares memories

A WARWICK military veteran has lamented alleged ill treatment he said occurred at the end of nearly 10 years of service.

Gordon McKeen, 80, joined the Australian Army in 1955, and spent almost four years on two tours before being discharged in 1964.

But even after spending time on active duty abroad, Mr McKeen said the worst came when he had returned to Australian shores.

"During my first tour I was in the general infantry, but my second tour was with the military police," he said.

"When I got back it was during peace time.

"I went down to Singleton in New South Wales to do an army exercise.

"My orders were to control the traffic on the road near our base."

Mr McKeen recalled that as night was approaching, the battery he was with left him and others behind.

"We made the decision to go forward and try to find them and stick with them," he said.

"It was just getting on dark, and when we caught them I reported to the battery Sergeant Major and told him what my orders were.

"So I set up on the side of the road to control the military traffic coming through.

"When it came time to set up camp, one guy who I thought I was pretty good friends with pointed me out towards a tree and said 'you see that black thing over there? You go out past that and set up camp'."

The vague black object turned out to be an explosive device that detonated, leaving Mr McKeen in hospital for months.

"It was an animal scarer of some sort," he said.

"The flare went off and blinded me in one eye.

"I was taken to Newcastle Hospital where I was looked over by a fantastic doctor, but then I had to go to the Concorde Military Hospital in Sydney.


"They eventually sent me to Brisbane and my brother who was also in the military at the time had to come back with me by train because I couldn't fly..."

When Mr McKeen left the army, he said was awarded $2000 in compensation.

"I took the discharge and it was impossible to find work," he said.

"I've had a lot of trouble with my sight, even with my good eye, and I wasn't offered anything more than that.

"I was lucky I was able to buy a house in Brisbane after I was married and made money selling that before moving here."

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