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Kevin John Bineham

Kevin John Bineham

Staff Sergeant, Australian Army



Staff Sergeant Kevin John Bineham (Johny), enlisted in the Army at the young age of 18. He was posted as an Infantryman to 3RAR in Korea, on 1 June 1953. After discharge he served with 1 Commando Company, Georges Heights. He later rejoined the Regular Army to serve in the Indonesian Confrontation with the Royal Australian Engineers, then later in the Vietnam War with 1 Divisional Intelligence Detachment. After discharge he then served with 2 Intelligence Unit, Moore Park. Now he enjoys active pursuits such as art, writing, and ballroom dancing.


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Photography by Tae Yun. Courtesy of the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Sydney.

Kevin (Johny) Bineham is a self-proclaimed "rebel" despite his career as an Infantryman.

He was born in Tully, in North Queensland. When he was 18, he moved to Sydney to join the Army, where his career began on a lie. At the time, you had to be 19 to serve overseas so he told the Army that he was 22.

Johny served with 3RAR in the Korean War. His enduring memories are of the people that he encountered as he served in Korea.

After completing basic training in Australia, he went to Japan to train further at Haramura, a Second World War training camp. His Seargent was a Second World War veteran and was difficult to get along with - "he was an old bastard". 

Despite the hard training that he endured with this Sergeant, he remembers one particular mission where, while the soldiers were trained hard physically, the Sergeant encouraged the platoon to pause and reflect for a moment.

"At about midnight, he said, 'That’s enough, just sit down and enjoy the view'. We could see as dawn broke, that down below us at the bottom of this mountain was a Japanese fishing village. There was the Japanese sea, and there's probably four or five islands dotting it. We watched the dawn come up and just saw this amazing landscape that was there in front of us. Everybody was in total silence; nobody said anything. It was a very reflective platoon of soldiers who walked back home."

What he loved most about the Army, from the moment he joined, was how much it drove you to discover and become your best self. Much of the person he is today is the result of the experiences he had while deployed, especially in learning about the importance in finding the good in whatever situation you are in.

"I can remember a Sergeant saying quite plainly, 'You know, we're here to break your back, not your spirit.' That's always been the way of the Australian Army."

It was his experiences of the humanness of people that he remembers most about his time in Korea, despite the deprivation and desolation of war. Once, while stuck in Seoul, he snuck out of the compound and met a brother and sister living just outside the wire. There was an obvious language problem, but he persevered.

"Through pantomime I figured out they had no food. So I thought, 'I'll fix that.'"

Johny snuck into a food locker and grabbed tins of peaches, spam, potatoes and whatever else he could pile into his shirt. He went back and sat with them by the fire for a few hours, eating warmed up tinned peaches.

"I went ahead and snuck out again to that little fire and there's this this young kid of 12 and this girl of maybe 13. We're sitting there, the three of us and just a little fire eating warmed up to tinned peaches. I suppose I spent a couple of hours with them. Months later I went again when I was on leave and tried to check out that place. It was gone. Those kids were gone. But it was all about the human connection. That's what I learned there."

Johny went on to serve in the Vietnam War and the Indonesian Confrontation, but he still remembers his first wartime experience fondly because he felt that he really made a difference. He is proud that he was there and helped the people of South Korea.

His service in the Korean War shaped him into the man he is today and taught him valuable life lessons that he continues to carry with him.

"We were part of that difference; our involvement, our engagement helped them. I'm proud that I was there. That, you know, I was an infantryman. You can be there and nothing happened or just small incidents. No major battle or whatever, you have no control of those things. You just, you just deal as best you can with the situation which confronts you at that time and therefore, you do the best you can in whatever situation you’re in and look for the good in people."

Discover more stories of Korean War veterans at the Armistice in Korea: 1953-2023 photography exhibition open at the Anzac Memorial until 7 August