A Life of Service

Kylie Hatfield
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For many members of the RSL, the name Vic Reading is synonymous with dedication, selflessness and cheeky humour. Vic’s contribution to the cause was recently immortalised, with the naming of the newly refurbished Pension and Welfare Centre at Redcliffe RSL in his honour; a fitting tribute to one of the RSL’s true volunteer contributors. 

Admitting that having the refurbished Pension and Welfare Centre named in his honour – along with being granted Life Membership of the Redcliffe RSL Services Club – brought a tear to his eye, Vic said it was “up there” among the greatest moments of his time in the RSL.

“It is something that I know I’ve got while I was living; that something has been named after me, while I’m still around to see it and appreciate it,” Vic said.

Vic ReadingVic’s contribution to the cause was recently immortalised, with the naming of the newly refurbished Pension and Welfare Centre at Redcliffe RSL in his honour; a fitting tribute to one of the RSL’s true contributors.

The honour reflects a lifetime of combined service in the Australian Defence Force and the RSL, which is filled with experiences, achievements and memories.

Growing up in Brisbane, Vic undertook his panel-beater apprenticeship with the Brisbane City Council Department of Transport prior to joining the Australian Defence Force. Vic’s commendable military career began upon enlistment at the age of 22 in 1964, when he undertook Recruit Training at Kapooka, then to the Infantry Centre, Depot Company at Ingleburn, NSW, which he described as some of his best months in the military.

“I’ve always said to my wife, the best part of my Army career was the three or four months I spent at the Infantry Centre, where you go from being a Recruit to becoming a Private in Infantry,” Vic said. “I just loved it, it taught me so much.”

Vic was then posted to 2RAR before transferring to the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME) and posting to Northern Command Workshops at Bulimba. This would be the first of several postings in RAEME, where he served as a tradesman and subsequently in regimental, instructional and administration roles.

Vic spent some time at 301 Field Workshops at Bulimba, where he became the Regimental Duty Non- Commissioned Officer (NCO), instructing on drill, weapons and promotions on the regimental side of the workshops. In July 1968, Vic undertook his Sergeant Qualification Course at RAEME Training Centre, topping the course. “Just after that, I went to Canungra and did the Jungle Training Centre. I did the course there and was sent to Vietnam,” Vic said.

Serving as the Regimental Duty NCO at 102 Field Workshops, Vic spent a year in Vietnam before returning to 1 Base Workshop Bulimba, on promotion to Sergeant in a Regimental Posting. In April 1973, Vic was posted to RAEME Training Centre as an Instructor, again instructing on drill, weapon handling, military law and RAEME in the field.

“We used to put a workshop into the field, so laying out a big workshop and putting it out in the field; I instructed on that as well.

“I ended up spending from 1973 until 1982 at RAEME Training Centre, getting posted to Admin Wing, Vehicle Wing, Corps Training Wing, Armoured Wing, Electrical Wing and Field Wing; all the wings of the centre.”

In 1974, Vic was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 2.

From there, in 1982, Vic was posted to 2-Base Workshops at Moorebank, near Sydney, as the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM). Then in 1985, he was posted to 3-Base Workshops in Broadmeadows, Melbourne, again as the RSM – but he had his sights set on returning to RAEME Training Centre.

“I wanted to go back to RAEME Training Centre as the RSM of the school, but, unfortunately, that was never going to happen,” Vic said.

In 1986, while considering getting out of the Army, Vic was offered the position of Assistant Quarter Master at RAEME Training Centre, managing the logistics of the Corp receiving their Royal Banner, which was to be presented by the Duke of Edinburgh.

“For six to nine months I did the logistics side of that, roaming around all the areas and making sure we had everything we needed… all the logistics. That was 22 years by that time, so I got discharged and came home to Brisbane.”

But not before being offered, and declining, the opportunity to be put forward as a Prescribed Service Officer (PSO).

“My Commanding Officer at RAEME Training Centre happened to be my Platoon Commander in Vietnam, and he said, ‘Would you consider being put up for PSO, Victor?’ I said, ‘I don’t think so, sir’. At least they offered; but I chose to come back to Brisbane, because I knew Helen wanted to come back.”

Having married four months before enlisting, Helen has supported Vic throughout his military career, relocating and raising their daughter.

“Everybody said, ‘Oh, your marriage will never last now’ [after enlisting]. But from June 6, 1964 until now, I’m still married to the same lovely ladyand have a beautiful daughter. So, there you go. It does work.”

While based in Sydney and Melbourne, Vic would commute to Wodonga at every chance to visit his family, where Helen was working and their daughter attended school. But when they returned to Brisbane for his sister’s funeral in 1986, Helen convinced Vic to purchase a house at Bribie Island, where they have lived ever since.

“If I hadn’t gone to Bribie, I don’t know, I guess I might not have been in the RSL, because, as it was, the guy who talked me into joining was at Bribie,” Vic said.

After discharging from the Army, Vic found work as a kitchenhand at Prince Charles Hospital and then as a janitor at the newly opened Bribie Island State High School, where he remained for 14 years until he retired in 2003.

“It was a time when I didn’t want any responsibility. They were looking for cleaners, but I didn’t get the job as the cleaner, I got the job as the janitor, which was better as it was more money and working straight hours instead of split shifts.”

In the meantime, Vic’s interest in giving back to the veteran community was growing and he got involved with the Vietnam Veterans Association on Bribie Island, of which he served as President from 1996-97. Vic also re-joined the RSL, after joining the Cannon Hill RSL Sub Branch originally in 1970 and being a member of the Wodonga RSL Sub Branch in Victoria while based there.

“I made the mistake of joining the Vietnam Vets, and I say ‘mistake’ because there were some really good guys there and one of them said, ‘Come and join the RSL’, and that started my long commitment to the RSL,” Vic said, with his trademark tongue-incheek humour.

Joining Bribie Island RSL Sub Branch in 1995, Vic was on the committee within a month and has served as a volunteer on an RSL committee in some capacity ever since.

“I just wanted to be involved in it, it was interesting. When I first joined it was mainly just Sub Branch work. Then the President at Bribie at the time was a guy called Billy Gilmore. We were going to South East District meetings; Billy was the delegate and he wanted an alternate delegate to come with him. I went as the alternate delegate, and I just got more and more interested.”

Vic was involved in the formation of the Brisbane North District of the RSL in 1998, serving as one of the inaugural Vice Presidents before taking on the role of Deputy President. Throughout this time, Vic also served on what was called the Administrative Committee, which worked closely with the RSL (Queensland Branch) State Council, as it was known then.

“Then in 2005, I became the District President, which put me onto the Board of RSL Queensland in my own right, which was still called State Council then. And then in 2011, we formed the new constitution and became Directors,” Vic said.

While undertaking his role as a Director, Vic was also the appointed State/Company Secretary from 2014 until 2016, and again the Company/ Board Secretary from 2017 until earlier this year, when he retired from the Board of Directors of RSL Queensland.

Despite stepping down from his long-held position, Vic remains a member of the C&A Committee and Chair of the Lotteries Committee, as well as a recent addition to the Board of Redcliffe RSL Sub Branch, where he is now a member.

“I have worked with some great and dedicated Board and Committee members, and it has been a fantastic learning curve understanding this icon that is the RSL,” Vic said.

But it is not just those serving on boards and committees that have touched Vic during his tenure, with RSL staff and, of course, the veteran community having helped shape his experiences.

“The staff that work at ANZAC House should be thanked; they made my term as a Director for the 13 years I served in the role such a pleasant time, and I always knew I could enjoy their company.

“And over the years I have had the pleasure and privilege of meeting many wonderful members, both women and men, of the military family; I’ve enjoyed their company, shared stories and been moved by them.”

While the Pension and Welfare Centre at Redcliffe RSL Sub Branch being named in his honour is certainly a deserved acknowledgement for his  contribution to the RSL and the wider veteran community, Vic also lists being the District President and subsequently a Director of RSL Queensland, and being awarded his Life Membership of the RSL, as other high points of his years of involvement.

“It [the naming] took my breath away; I literally had a tear in my eye,” Vic said.

“I turned to them and said, ‘Why, what have I done?’ They said, ‘To show our appreciation; you’ve always helped us and looked after your District.’ And that was it.”