Mial Bingarape
Torres Strait Islander
Retired Corporal
3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
Royal Australian Infantry Corps
Australian Army
Malaysia Veteran

Australian Active Service Medal 1945-75 with clasp MALAYSIA
General Service Medal 1962 with clasp MALAY PENINSULA
Australian Service Medal 1945-75 with clasp SE ASIA
Australian Defence Medal
Pingat Jasa Malaysia Medal

I was born in 1932 on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. My father was Indonesian, and my mother was a Torres Strait Islander. I was still an infant when I was adopted by my cultural parents according to our traditional Ailan Kastom way. My cultural parents were very loving and brought me up to respect our Island culture and our faith, and I was able to continue mixing with my biological brothers and sisters as one big close-knit family.

I was only nine when World War 2 came to the Islands. Planes flew low overhead, and our Island soldiers marched proudly down the main street in their uniforms. I was excited and thought, ‘That’s it! I’m going to join the army!’ I married when I was 21. We had a daughter and a son, and I worked on the wharves, but I wanted to get off Thursday Island. So, with the help of a friend, who was a recruiting officer, I enlisted in the Army in 1960 when I was 28.

I chose the infantry to be near my family and was posted to 3 RAR, the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment in Brisbane, eventually being promoted to Corporal. My family lived with me and loved army life. In 1963, 3RAR went over to help Malaysia in the Konfrontasi, the conflict with Indonesia. We did a lot of hard patrolling and fighting along the Sarawak-Indonesian border. I had two mates killed in front of me. One of our Sergeants had just given us our orders but unknown to him, he had squatted down on a booby trap. When he stood up, he was blown to pieces. Just a short time later, his replacement, a very good pal of mine, was moving up to lead his platoon, when he tripped another booby trap and was also blown up. Only seconds earlier, we’d been talking about having our families get together for a barbie. It was devastating. For a moment, the fight goes out of you. Then you know you’ve got to concentrate on what has to be done and forget it. But you don’t forget it. It takes a long time to get over these things.

One of the hardest things for me over there was the fear that I might be facing my own brothers in battle. My father had gone back to live in Indonesia, and my brothers had joined the Indonesian army. I couldn’t shake the thought that I might be fighting them, might have killed them. It was agonising, and  I still live with it today. I can push it aside, but it keeps coming back.

There were good times, though. You could go anywhere and be respected in uniform in those days. In Malaya, my section was like family. We trusted each other. The camaraderie kept us strong. My bush instincts from growing up on the Island saved us more than once. ‘If it wasn’t for Bing, we wouldn’t be here today,’ my mates used to say.

Moving around with the Army made it tough for my children, though, changing schools all the time, especially my eldest daughter, who was entering high school. So, after Malaya, I thought it was time I pulled up sticks and left, but my wife and I often miss it. My time in the army, with all its ups and downs, is a big part of who I am. It showed me the strength of bonds forged in the heat of battle.

Thank you Uncle Mial for providing this photograph of yourself.