In 1969, most Nashos I knew had completed 5 year apprenticeships and were just beginning to earn full pay (Army pay. in comparison, was extremely low.) At 19 years of age, most young men in Australia were still living at home. As you approached eligible age for conscription, the worry, uncertainty and unfairness of the ballot, not helped by graphic nightly news casts depicting the war and the weekly name list of the dead and injured, did nothing to alleviate the apprehension of being “called up”.

Nothing could prepare you for the shock of arriving at training camp. Long hair was accepted as the norm and you could see the self-esteem and dignity being stripped away and fall to the floor along with the hair as our heads were shaved army style. Deprivation of liberty, disempowering abuse were phrases yet to be coined, but they were our everyday reality, along with being humiliated in front of our peers. Platoons were played against each other and the fear of being back-squadded was an ever-present threat. The bus taking us from Sydney down to Kapooka was akin to the Wonthaggi school bus, complete with rattling windows, vinyl seats with chrome surrounds. I can still remember the drill Sargent’s name (Bombardier Hawkes), and the sea of green phlegm around the dormitory, as everybody had the flu that year. Several were hospitalized and one died. I remember girls crossing the road when they saw us in uniform at Wagga Wagga (we had to wear our uniform on our days off while at training camp). The army was very unpopular at that time.

One day, as I looked down from “Silver City”, {located at the Dock of the comp), I come very close to going AWOL, but it was this or two years military prison (rumour had if that if jailed, you would be cutting the lawn with nail scissors and scrubbing floors with a toothbrush).

I was called up along with two of my best friends. One ended up in amphibious (army ducks) Watson’s Bay, Sydney. The other to infantry 2RAR in Townsville. Thinking back, I realise we talked very little about our army days even while we were serving.

My basic training was at Kapooka. My core training was at Puckapunyal in transport. Then on to Bonegilla for materials handling, forklifts. (The food was good there, thanks to it being the catering corps-training center.) My unit posting was to 21 Supply platoon 1 company RAASC at lngleburn. During my service, I can remember loading the supply ship Japarrat in Sydney, with supplies for Vietnam. I did guard duty at Victoria Barracks, Paddington, Sydney. From Rockhampton, we supplied logistics for 2RAR for their final training at Shoalwater Bay prior to their tour in Vietnam.

I was asked to replace someone in Vietnam but I didn’t go as I only had 10 months left to serve (a tour of duty in Vietnam was normally 12 months). Then my two years’ service were over, I remember burning all of my army clothes. My youth was gone forever. (All Nashos were automatically put into the reserve forces for a further 3 years.

Some thirty years later, when I read in the local paper that a medal was going to be awarded to the notional servicemen, I was overwhelmed with sadness, tears and grief as I had to deal with suppressed memories of the rejection and shame I experienced at that time. I was surprised to realise that those two years of my life had left such deep emotional scars.

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop