Fifty Years ago Today
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Thread: Fifty Years ago Today

  1. #1
    JBN
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    Default Fifty Years ago Today

    I just realised that today, 8 May 2019 is the 50th anniversary of my departure along with the rest of the Sixth Battalion from Townsville on the HMAS Sydney for Vietnam. Fortunately I have been able to grow old.

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    I had volunteered for National Service to get out of school teaching. I didn't have a magic birthdate to get drafted but after being sent to a one teacher school 20 miles south of Walcha, 5 miles north of the dingo fence along the Nowendoc road, I realised quickly that my life wasn't going the way I expected. I had 22 kids from kindergarten to 6th class and realised in the first month I didn't like kids. Bummer! My girfriend in Sydney realised she didn't like me after the first month and sent me a Dear John letter. At least she got the name right but the story was crap. At the end of first term, heading back to Wollongong for the Easter break, I blew up my VW Beetle engine. Bent a con rod, seized 3 cylinders and generally stuffed the motor. When I got home I saw the Indefinite Deferment letter from the Dept of National Service. They didn't want me!

    Feeling unwanted and neglected, I decided to take my future into my own hand (NO! I am not talking masturbation here). I volunteered for National Service, an option one had under the Act. They replied by stating that school teachers are only inducted into National Service for the first intake of the year so as not to disrupt the Education Department's planning. I was accepted to present for the 1st intake of 1967. I spent that first year teaching and reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T E Lawrence and Hemingway's books - Farewell to Arms & For Whom the Bell Tolls. Thus primed I went into the Army. I was selected to go to officer training at the Officer Training Unit at Scheyville (near Windsor) in north western Sydney.

    I subsequently graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant (they didn't have 3rd Lieutenants) and was posted to 6RAR just moved to Townsville. I extended my NS by 18 months (one could extend by up to 24 months, doubling the original 2 year obligation), That would see me complete 12 months in Vietnam and see me exit the army in the 30 days leave post Vietnam. I was the platoon commander of the Anti-Tank/Tracker Platoon. Since there was no tank threat in Vietnam, we trained as a Tracker Platoon and had 3 labrador/kelpie cross dogs.

    Recently I uploaded a number of 5 minute long videos to youtube. They were created from highlights of Super 8 film that I took (since digitised) that I originally created for the National Vietnam Veterans Museum at San Remo on Phillip Island. The titles should find the film:

    Vietnam War Aussie Infantry
    Vietnam War Aussie Artillery
    Vietnam War Aussie Armour
    Vietnam War Aussie Airstrike
    Vietnam War Aussie Hueys
    Vietnam War Aussie Navy
    Vietnam War Aussie R&C Vung Tau

    Between operations I would go flying with Capt Chris Neal USAF, a forward air controller with the callsign JADE 8. One day we put in an airstrike using 3 RAAF Canberra bombers. That is me putting on the parachute. The other pilot was from the same class at OTU and flew a Bell Sioux helicopter, callsign Possum 26.He was our battalion "pet possum" for about 6 months and I ended up doing a lot of flying with him. It was hard to tell who was the most stupid between us, but flying along at 70 knots just above the ground and below the tree tops was a great way to collect one's life insurance.

    A life misspent but never regretted.

    John
    Last edited by JBN; 9th May 2019 at 05:22 PM.
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  2. #2
    JBN
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    I just realised that today, 8 May 1919 is the 50th anniversary...

    Sorry about the typo of May 1919 rather than May 2019. I wondered why I felt so old this morning.

    John
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    1000+ Posts Fordman's Avatar
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    Ah, John, it all falls into place now. The subdued craziness, the left-of-field humour, the overt cynicism - yes, you were a primary school teacher!
    But seriously, my full respect for your voluntary service to the country, at a time I still remember clearly, although at a few years younger, I was thankfully not personally involved.
    I shall be viewing your videos with interest.
    I had a moving experience a few years ago, when working in an airline operations and maintenance office, we had a little office game to stick an old photo of one's self on the noticeboard, and see who could guess who it was. One photo got put up of a young grinning Steve McQueen lookalike, standing next to an armed up helicopter, and wearing a full magazine belt over his shoulder. No-one guessed, and it was our quietly efficient Operations Manager, a very decent bloke. We all felt moved at this look into the past.
    Congratulations on your 50 years.
    Regards
    Chris M.
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  4. #4
    JBN
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    This is the only "warry" one of me taken on SAS hill after we had completed a 5 day joint patrol. I was the tail end charlie, hence the M203 40mm grenade launcher under my M16 (serial number M1132843 which I had from new in Australia). We were the only infidels to have done a joint patrols with SAS, 4 patrols in total each comprising 3 SAS plus 3 Trackers. Seriously interesting and scary. JBN Doggy.jpg
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Fifty Years ago Today-jbn-sas.jpg  

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    Congratulations on surviving John! I attended one of those New England region one-teacher schools (from about 1960-64), and I suspect that our first teacher didn't particularly like children. If I was at home I would post a picture which would show why any young teacher from the city might have felt a bit of culture shock!

    Haven't watched your videos yet - look forward to doing so when I get a bit of time.

    Cheers

    Alec

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    The teacher I had in a combined 3rd-to-6th was a middle-aged man who certainly didn't like children, who were to be seen and not heard at all times. The only good thing I remember about him was he wasn't interested in forcing the syllabus.

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    1000+ Posts J-man's Avatar
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    I've only watched the first one so far. That's a great record John. Nicely put together with nice sound track too. Gee your ears would have copped a hiding. I can't imagine what it would have been liked. My brother would. He's done a number of them, last being Iraq. He too survived, but the PTSD has taken its toll. Hats off to those who've served.
    cheers,

    John

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    Serious respect John, thanks for that. I've watched one and will watch all your videos. They're quite good quality for cheap super 8!

    Just to add to the small school stories, I went to a country WA primary school with only two teachers/classrooms over years 1-7 so can relate to your situation - it was obvious that they wanted to escape! From memory two years was about the maximum stay for any teacher. Boy did we get slapped around and whacked with canes and rulers. I put it down to dislike of their situation! I always ducked the flying wooden duster though.


    2003 PEUGEOT 206 GTi

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    Hi John,
    I thought I was the first poster on your thread but it seems not to have gone through.
    My brother was a medic in Nui Dat 69-71. He too timed his exit to coincide with his release.

    He had taken lots of 35mm slides and some of his photos are in the war memorial and in a book someone (possibly the memorial themselves) published a while back.

    I enjoy your posts and hearing of your stories. Well done.
    bungalbill likes this.
    KB


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