Date of Entry: 14 Dec 17
Surname: Finlay
Christian Names: John Bernard
Country: Australia
State or Province: New South Wales
City or Town: Forestville
Service #: R94417
Service: Royal Australian Navy
Branch: Stores Assistant
Commencement of service: 04 Jul 64
Completion of service: Unknown
Case Notes:



John Bernard Finlay joined the Royal Australian Navy on 4 July 1964, as a Junior Recruit. His first sea posting, as a newly trained Stores Assistant, was on HMAS Derwent, where he saw operational service in Vietnam, and as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve (FESR).

Finlay later joined the HMAS Sydney, being deployed a number of times to Vietnam in the vital logistics role the ship was conducting at the time.

Finlay 1


The above photograph is one of many taken over several years. In each photograph, Finlay is involved in some prominent role at an ANZAC Day or Remembrance Day service as a member of the Forestville RSL Sub-Branch.

Finlay is wearing the following medals:

  1. Australian Active Service Medal (AASM) 1945-75
  2. Vietnam Logistic Support Medal (VLSM)
  3. Australian Service Medal 1945-75
  4. Australian Defence Medal
  5. HMAS Sydney Commemorative Medal
  6. FESR Commemorative Medal

Six medals look quite impressive, however, it is the last two medals that bring the attention to Finlay.

Finlay 2


The last two medals are quite simply junk and have no place being displayed with official medals, that is the well-known protocol.

The HMAS Sydney Commemorative was produced by a service association, aggrieved at the lack of recognition for the role they played in providing logistic support to Australian forces in Vietnam. This was later rectified by the award of the VLSM, under the official Australian Honours and Awards system.

The last medal, commemorating service with the FESR, seems to be worn by those wanting to make their row of medals look that little bit more impressive. However, service with the FESR was adequately recognised through the official awarding of the Australian Service Medal 1945-75, with clasp ‘FESR’.

Finlay has also attached campaign clasps to those pieces of tin, perhaps making him seem, in his eyes anyway, like a well-worn veteran. That said, it is a shame he has not attached the clasp VIETNAM to his AASM 1945-75, where it rightfully belongs.

Finlay 3


In the above photograph Finlay is pictured with Robin Geoffrey Tapp, who also appears on the pages of ANZMI. Both are often photographed together at ANZAC Day and Remembrance services. Perhaps ‘birds of a feather’ would be an appropriate tagline to those pictures.

Finlay, a Stores Assistant, and Tapp, a Steward, were part of the Navy Supply and Secretariat Branches, which also included Cooks and Writers.

This is of note, as a perusal of the ANZMI entries reveals that members of this branch of the Navy comprise a majority of entries for the seagoing arm of our Defence Force. Why is this? Did they feel that their service was not as important as that of a Gunner or Engineer, so those few extra dodgy medals get them a little more recognition?

In 2015, Finlay was awarded Life Membership in recognition of his many years of service to the RSL.

What will Finlay be awarded for his disrespect and dishonesty? Likely there will be no action, as it appears his charade has continued for many years, right under the noses of the Sub-Branch executive, even though medal protocol is well known and communicated throughout the RSL.

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