Black and White Fellas Wearing Slouch Hats

A salute to all warriors, black, white and brindle who served together, fought together and for some, they also died together.

Prologue

Old soldiers from days gone by often wonder where their mates are and how they fared in the years that followed their discharge.

At the reunions there is often the news of comrades doing it tough or have made a million, gone bush or have left the planet and so as the years go, the memories dim as the ranks grow thin. One aspect is certain; the respect and love for each other remains constant and as strong as it was when they were as young men, that “happy band of brothers.”

It began as a group of individuals from all walks of life gathered by the recruiting sergeant, heated on the forge at recruit training and then hammered into shape in a unit they came to love. A unit which was their family for all intent and purpose, of giving, sharing, protecting and enduring, often while exposed to total exhaustion, thirst and hunger.

Mate ship to them was everything. It was a helmet against fear and doubt. Their book of family rules was as a bible, held sacred and which demanded of them duty, trust, respect, battle discipline and love of country.

There was also the black humour used to overcome the loss of a comrade. On operations there were no times for parades, pomp and ceremony. In testing and dire circumstances which were often, any  mood of feeling sorry for one self was not tolerated.  The preventive to such thoughts was the bark of a sergeant to “get off your arse and start moving.”

Many of the wounded were evacuated by stretcher, others by helicopter and there were those who walked with the help of Fuzzy Wuzzy angels.  From Gallipoli to current wars, such sad departures were farewelled by nods, encouragement, a joke or the touch of a hand. Some didn’t make it and left an empty silent space within the team while others were sent home or returned to unit with a welcome of the happiest of grins from mates.

It didn’t matter who you were. Old, young, short on time or reinforcement. It was of no consequence if you were a new chum from the old world or a black fella from the back of Burke, a yokel from a country town or a smart Alek from the city. Even a Kiwi wanting to learn how to play Rugby and cricket was welcome.

You were as one and all wore the same uniform; took the same risks; shared the same rusty tin of meat and the last few drops of water. Exposed to adverse weather they shivered with the icy cold and huddled together under a wet blanket seeking body warmth from each other. They shared their dreams of their loved ones, of going home and of their tomorrows.

You had to be one of them to really understand the depth of their respect and camaraderie for each other.

It is time for the Government with icy cold water to hose down those social engineers who become hysterical when hearing such sins as a   white face painted black. Can we please have our freedom of expression and speech back? And allow our once normal life to return.

The time is well overdue for our Canberra Suits to fire a green flare and tell the world what we strive to be. One flag, one people and one nation and that political correctness is not part our future.

Thus the following scribble is a salute to all warriors, black, white and brindle who served together, fought together and for some, they also died together.

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  White Fella- Black Fella as One

I am slowly drowning in political correctness, day by day

Cos unknown social engineers insist we must live their way

Years ago, they threw a much loved child’s Golliwog into a bin

Today, mention “black fella “and listen to howls of “terrible sin”

I recall soldiering days when we were young and bold

Strong memories of comrades more precious than gold

Regardless of race, no place for shirkers and always marching as one

In peace or war, we wore same uniform with the rising sun

There’s so much about soldiering that strangers wouldn’t understand

Foremost was the sworn sacred oath to defend our land 

Comradeship was a trusty shield against doubt and fear

Our bible was and remains our own sacred rules held so dear

Well aware of the risks yet always going forward as brothers 

When there was great danger, we drew comfort from each other   ,

We shared the last of the food and water, even precious dreams

It didn’t matter who your mates were; black, white or in between

Who cared what race or colour when a brother did fall

He was one of us and the same pain and grief was suffered by all

Then of course there was humour when nothing went right 

Laughter when some never had to darken a face to patrol at night

Black fellas served side by side with white fellas in peace and war

Such as Meanie, Saunders, Sanderson, Don Bowie, Buddy Lea and many more

I’d be so proud of any grandchild of mine to blacken a white face

If it was to honour such heroes as these of another race

Ignore those warped dreamers barking at our heels with loud cry

The ghosts of warriors who served our nation are slowly marching by

White fellas, black fellas and in between; all bidding a fond hooroo 

To a land, true blue, with sounds of muffled drums and didgeridoos

                                             George Mansford ©September 2016

It’s Time To Stand Tall

Two legged blinkered sheep play “follow the leaders” in busy streets

Indifferent to amber signs of threat that our flock could soon meet

Dressed in space age cloth, texting and asking ‘What’s in it for me’?

Yesterday is forgotten and who cares of tomorrow in a land so free

 

There are gatherings where zealots chant “kill Jews and infidels”

While those who disagree are branded racists and bound for hell

Why is it we ridicule the lessons of Jesus Christ who preached love?

Yet ignore rabid fanatics vomiting evil, wielding swords high above?

 

Why so many stark images of drowned children on a lonely beach?

Understandably we weep, grieve and blame leaders far from reach

Yet infants crushed and torn on a French street for obsessive beliefs

Are masked by complacent blankets to calm outrage and grief

 

How false is our honour to past generations who gave all?

While we remain passive to threats that our way life could fall

Can’t we see that a Trojan horse is entering our happy domain?

Or do we flounder in mires of political correctness once again

 

Be you from the cities, country towns or beyond the black stump afar

It’s time to remind Canberra Suits who the bloody hell we are

No matter religion or lack of it; our message must be loud and clear

So stand tall now to ensure we protect a valued way of life so dear

George Mansford @ July 2016

Standing Proud and Tall- Fifty Years On

Each year there are gatherings throughout our nation to reflect on our commitment to the Vietnam War. These services coincide with the battle of Long Tan which is used as a focal point for this long and bloody campaign.

 

No matter when or where our military served in Vietnam, Long Tan represented the challenges, dangers and indomitable spirit of our Armed Forces who held high the ANZAC torch. The battle was a clear example of mate ship and team work including all Arms and Services that supported the gallant D Coy, 6RAR.

 

Long Tan demonstrated the battle discipline, stubbornness and defiance of the ordinary soldier when confronted with what seemed impossible odds. This page of history was synonymous in character with all clashes during the war, big or small from the very sharp tip of the spear to the dedicated Florence Nightingales waiting for the Dust Off helicopters to arrive with a new wave of casualties

 

Nor should history neglect the dedicated families during those years who kept the home fires burning despite anxiety and sleepless nights, dreading an unwelcome knock on the door by a grim faced messenger of death

 

Now  in our life’s journey we have arrived at the 50 year marker  since Long Tan. It is time to remember those who did not come home and so many who thought they had. It is a time to recall so many comrades who have since joined them. It is a time to remind all younger generations of the terrible cost of war, during and long after the last shot has been fired.

 

It is a time for Politicians to revise their policies in regards those who have served their nation no matter when or where and a time for all veterans from yesterday to be together once more, standing tall and proud.

 

Fifty Years On

It was a gathering for the 50th year

Some old soldier on meeting after such time shed a tear

Common was the greeting “Gidday ya ugly bastards, have a beer”

Far different from today’s political correctness, I fear

 

Smiling faces, strong embraces and excitement said it all

To be again with old comrades, one and all

No matter the genes, religion or lack of it, be it yours or mine

All were beloved brothers who had stood the test of time

 

Was it so long ago when we did dare

In swamps, paddy fields and smothering jungle every where

When we dreamed of distant futures so far away

Yet tonight as we reflect, it seems such thoughts were only yesterday

 

Now as the Gathering grows, it makes you feel so young

To hear once more the laughter and familiar songs we sung

Recalling the funny times despite those terrible days so grim

The joy of joshing old mates for past mischief, especially him and him

 

Gone the howling scream above and then deafening fiery blast

Absent is the cruel metal, whirring, humming; there’s silence at last

No more the waiting game and “There’s been a change of plans”

Now it’s “Drink your bloody beer and keep up if you can”

 

Time marches on and many chairs are empty; all is so quiet

The light is fading and soon will come the lonely unknown night

Yet always will be the memories until that final hour

Of a powerful and noble loving brotherhood which was ours

George Mansford ©June 2015

 

 

A Day in the Life of a Soldier

      For all diggers, past,  present and future

 A Day in the Life of a Soldier 

Patrolling through the jungle green

Searching for an enemy yet to be seen

Smothering heat and saturated with sweat

Terrible thirst but not to drink yet

 

A hand signal ripples down the single file

It means a five minute break to rest for awhile

Drinking precious water from a canteen nearly empty

We pray there is a stream ahead with cool water aplenty

 

Watching and listening for danger while resting on the jungle floor

You must wait tonight’s fitful sleep for sweet dreams galore

Of loved ones, hot food, icy beer and a pretty girl to meet

A soft comfortable bed and deep sleep between crisp cool sheets

 

Now a hand signal that we are about to go

We grunt struggling to our feet with heavy loads, painfully slow

Dark clouds hover above and suddenly drenching rain

We’re slipping, sliding in mire and softly cursing again and again

 

A small shelter and leafy mattress with leeches for company at night

Sentry duty at some ungodly hour in blackness totally without sight

Tomorrow, in torn muddy cloth, we’ll search once more for foe

Such is part of soldiering life wherever we go

 

Those yet to serve will often face danger on that unknown track

Cold, hungry, thirsty and weary yet never turning back

Whenever and whatever the task; stepping forward as one

Always the mate-ship, pride and love of country until duty done

George Mansford ©May 2016

 

Forgotten Campaigns – A Secret War

From George Mansford – Warrior Poet and Commentator on topical Events

“An old warrior by the name of John Burns made contact to advise he and other veterans of his unit who fought in Borneo, post WW2, were soon  to return there to recognize the 50th   year since the end of the war against Indonesia, commonly known as Confrontation, (1962-66).   As is the way of old soldiers returning to past battlefields, they will hold a special service to reflect on fallen comrades. John asked me if I could write a few lines for such a special occasion. I was honoured to do so.

Their visit coincides with an announcement that Australian Mints have struck special 25 cent coins marking service to country and which recognize battles/campaigns from WW1 to Afghanistan.

Sadly two campaigns, the Malayan Emergency (1948-60) and Confrontation (1962-66 ) which involved our military are not included. It would seem secrecy of “Confrontation” is still a must for some in official circles.

Personally I am of the view that if the Mints employed a military historian; he or she should be returned to a Recruit Training Centre followed by compulsory service at the Australian War Memorial for further and proper education of our proud military history.

In the meantime here is a small tribute to all those who served in what still clearly remain forgotten wars.

George Mansford April 2016

A Secret War

Soon, old warriors will gather where once they had been

A harsh cruel arena of rugged mountains and thick jungle green

Fast rivers, steamy smothering heat and drenching rains

Seeking an elusive enemy far and wide, again and again

 

Mute soldiers with whispers and use of hand signals to speak

Tired, hungry, thirsty and dreams of crystal clear water from a creek

Ambushing day and night and wondering what tomorrow will bring

Watching, waiting, slipping, climbing, panting and softly cur-sing

 

Often the unknown and unexpected that suddenly is there

A deafening mines blast or the stutter of gunfire but from where?

The shouts and screams as the drills are quickly done

Adrenalin flows, gasping for breath and wondering who lost or won

 

Always the ANZAC humour and caring, sharing with each other

“Up the Red Rooster” was the battle cry for this band of brothers

Today on parade, now aged with time, they still stand tall and proud

Reflecting on absent comrades as the bugle sobs loud

 

Far away in Canberra, old hidden records are finally to be seen

No longer sealed lips of brave deeds by young diggers in jungle green

For ages it remained a secret war and our troops were never there

On those many well-trod tracks where phantom warriors did dare

George Mansford © February 2016

 

POZIERES

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Gibraltar Bunker, Pozieres

August 1916 (courtesy Wikipedia)

POZIERES*
The Australians stormed the trenches in the town of Pozieres.
They wrested it from the Germans, who had claimed the ground as theirs.
But the enemy knew the lay of the land, and where each trench was set,
So they poured in high explosive shells, from the village of Courcelette.
For four days and as many nights they bombarded the town.
Shrieking, screaming shells of death were falling all around.
The grinding, crushing, pounding, gradually blew the town away.
Just clouds of coloured smoke were to be seen, by the light of day.
Every Australian in the trenches was buried at some time.
A shell dropped every three seconds on our soldiers in the line.
And they knew that just one shell-burst, could blow them limb from limb.
Like the grotesque twisted bodies they had seen as they came in.
The never-ending shelling would send some men insane.
They never ever would be, quite the same again.
Some were quivering, some just sobbed, some just screamed aloud.
Their nerves were totally shattered by the barrage from the clouds.
The noise was just horrendous, the ground would rock and sway,
And the shells just kept on coming – they’d never go away.
Some men ran towards the Germans, they simply had gone mad.
They could not stand this living hell, and the end for them was sad.
And when the shelling ended, the soldiers were relieved.
Their grim and haunted faces, had to be seen to be believed.
They walked like zombies from the field, their glassy eyes transfixed.
Shuffling like invalids through the dust of shattered bricks.
No soldiers had ever suffered, a bombardment of this kind.
And no words could aptly describe the state, in which it left their minds.
But the legacy they left this world for soldiers yet to come.
Was that ‘shell-shock’ could cause injury, just like the bullets from a gun.

*Pozieres was the heaviest concentrated shelling bombardment
of a narrow piece of real estate the world had ever seen, in this
horrific demonstration of modern artillery warfare.
Bill Charlton c 2014

A TRILOGY IN CONFLICT – 3 POEMS ON FSBs CORAL & BALMORAL

 

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FIRE SUPPORT BASE ‘ CORAL’

From late May 1968 , the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the Royal  Australian Regiment,

with 102 Field Battery and 161 Field Battery RNZA fought a series of battles from

the Fire Support Bases of ‘Coral’ and ‘Balmoral’ against a formidable force of

North Vietnamese soldiers. Some of the actions fought here were the largest

encountered by the Australians during the Vietnam War. These bases were our little

pieces of Australia deliberately set in place in the path of the enemy to deter them from

using these direct supply routes to and from Saigon.

A TRILOGY IN CONFLICT

FIRE SUPPORT BASE ‘CORAL’

 

1. THE INITIAL ATTACK

Darkness screened the swelling tide

Which amplified in force

Then rose as waves upon the sea

To rush their headlong course.

Across a stretch of No Mans Land

Through killing fields they swept

A screaming horde of faceless men

Who ran, or walked and crept.

Then bursts of fire broke their drive

And they milled – uncertain there

But some pursued there reckless surge

Through austere light of flare

And as the small arms crackled

Machineguns joined the fray

And rockets burst across the sky

To turn night into day.

From every pit and shell-scrape

Our gunners took control

As battles raged on every side

And the conflict took its toll.

Bright green tracer crossed the sky

But soon switched off again

As fire from the miniguns

Spat down like crimson rain.

The gunships pounced on everything

That moved within their sights.

Their flaring rockets crashing home

As red tracer filled the night.

And every 105 in range

Was firing in support

With 3RAR Mortars joining in

To play this deadly sport.

But 102 was not done yet

Its guns were still in play.

They fired now from open sights

And the splintex whooshed away.

So the night rolled like a movie

Filled with characters – gaunt and stark

And a handful of vigilant diggers

Played their roles out in the dark.

Then as dawn broke – the fighting ebbed

And the enemy trickled away

Into the trees to the north and the east

Escaping the light of day.

The clearing patrols that swept the front

Baulked about where they should tread.

For the scene of the battle, resembled a beach

With its shoreline littered with dead.

And the sun raised its head over ‘Coral’

On the carnage sustained in the fight.

On the backs of the gunners – bent over the mud,

Digging in for another long night.

FIRE SUPPORT BASE ‘CORAL’

THE SECOND ATTACK

Like pigeons to a loft they came

As silent as the falling rain

Forming up along the ditch

Impatient for that final pitch.

Across the rolling stretch of grass

Diggers wish the night would pass

As tell-tale signals in the sky

Illuminate – then fade and die.

Then mortars fall around the base

A moderate/heavy attack takes place

Rockets fly amongst the trees

As machineguns seek adversaries.

And then they come in groups of three

The same AKs and RPGs

Behind them lining up so brave

The first assault – and second wave

Flares and tracer light the sky

As troops on both sides fight and die

And salvos from the fire missions

Seek and deal their retribution.

Machineguns steadily chip away

Through surging mass of NVA

And one by one  they topple down

To pile as leaves upon the ground.

Then Spooky and the gunships came

Rockets and miniguns gushing flame

And bright red tracer falls as rain

As back and forth they sweep again.

Two HMGs have been detected

But both it seems are well-protected.

A jet is called to lend assistance

Its napalm ending all resistance.

And then two other jets fly by

Dropping napalm on the wire

Then turning strafe the NVA

Who stand no chance to win the day.

Inside the base the APCs

Make furtive runs for casualties.

Taking ammo on their rounds

To pass around the battleground.

Our gunners have to work non-stop

The barrels of their guns run hot.

But every gun is kept in play

As round on round is fired away.

Then D Company takes the final thrust

A battalion-charge through smoke and dust.

But still the Company ranks stand fast

To fight determined – to the last.

Now dawn is creeping on the scene

And everything becomes serene

The enemy now drift away

As night returns to light of day.

And weary diggers move around

As they survey the battleground

The smell of death is in the air

And flies are buzzing everywhere.

The battle for ‘Coral’ has been won

The enemy are on the run.

But this could be a small respite.

Perhaps they’ll come again tonight!

FIRE SUPPORT BASE ‘BALMORAL

3. THE NIGHT ATTACKS

The diggers were edgy, expecting a fight

As tracer and small arms dissected the night

The primaries sounded at half after three

And mortars began landing in each Company.

The bugles then sounded an attack to begin

And rockets and rifles were fired within

A lone Bangalore punched a hole in the wire

And the battle commenced as our claymores were fired.

But this probing was weak, and virtually ceased

As the main thrust was mounted from north and northeast

Where machineguns and mortars fired into the base

And the action increased at an incredible pace.

As the last flares were dying, the enemy advanced.

Platoons fanning out as they made good their chance.

But the ‘arty’ was zeroed in right on the wire

And the attackers were caught in this terrible fire.

The gunships above also entered the fray

Their machineguns and rockets now hammered away,

Adding their weight to the Infantry force

Which vented its fury with relentless resource.

Centurion tanks also stood in the path

And their huge 20 pounders soon warmed to the task.

While Spooky sought targets around the northeast.

Where the enemy mortars had first been released.

But a lull then occurred to let Dustoff fly in

And the NVA ordered withdrawal to begin.

By first light the diggers were clearing the ground

But only found silence and death all around.

A second attack – two day later began

But nothing at all had been changed in the plan.

Down the same corridor as they had in the first

And the same wire breached – as the bangalores burst.

But our tanks soon responded with canister shell

And the enemy ranks just crumbled and fell.

While the mortars and rockets and small arms poured in

And our own fire missions compounded the din.

There were tracer and flashes, as flares burst on high

Where a Spooky and gunships fired down from the sky.

The noise from the action confounded the brain

With the passage of shells passing by like a train.

But the enemy regrouped and were facing the fire

As wave after wave poured down on the wire.

The main thrust were racing across open ground.

And these were the targets the gunners took down.

Many sought refuge in any craters they found.

Escape from the tempest that flew all around.

These little groups were the hardest to budge.

A hand grenade often would settle the grudge.

The RPG rockets were still coming fast

While the arty and mortars continued to blast

Then a red flare was fired as a sign of withdrawal

And the enemy moved back at a slow even crawl.

As first light approached, the wire was sprung

And two heavy tanks went through at the run.

Clearing the open space up to the trees

Returning with prisoners – eager to please.

So a chapter had closed on this phase of the war

And the actions they fought were forgotten once more.

But still there are some who took part on that day

Hear the sounds of a battle that will not go away!

Bill Charlton  c 2000

MEMORIES OF LONG TAN

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TWO POEMS  IN MEMORY OF PAUL LARGE

 

This photo reminds me of the terrible cost,

When a young digger’s life is suddenly lost.

Captured in time drinking from his canteen.

As moving a photograph as I’ve ever seen.

For young Paul was killed at the Battle of Long Tan.

Facing the enemy as he made his last stand.

There was no finer digger that fought in the line.

His memory must endure the harsh test of time.

He was not meant to be there, but he volunteered.

The service he gave must be greatly revered.

For he gave up his life doing what he thought right.

A selfless sacrifice, during that terrible fight.

Paul Large upheld our finest Anzac traditions,

Serving his country in such trying conditions.

The bravery he showed must be conserved for all time,

As a shining example of our men in the line!

Look back at the photo and see what I mean.

It’s a classic life moment as ever I’ve seen,

Of a handsome young digger photographed in a war,

Taking a drink before giving his all!

Bill Charlton c 2015

STANDING TALL

“You don’t have to go, you’re already exempt!”

Mum pleaded with Paul in one final attempt.

“I’ve got to go Mum all my mates are off too!”

But with the physical done, only he would get through.

They sent her young son across the seas,

Far from his friends and family.

It just took a marble to be put on a plane,

But sadly real war is no schoolboy game.

War is a thing without reason or rule,

With no clear distinction between normal and cruel.

This is the stage where boy becomes man,

And a lifetime can end at the wave of a hand.

Straining the eyes with a thousand yard stare,

They sweep through the rubber to see who’s there.

“Contact front!” “Go to ground!”

The boy in the man can feel his heart pound.

Aim at the enemy, fire at will.

Wave after wave and they’re coming in still.

Then down falls the rain and a mist sets in.

And the artillery’s screaming an horrendous din.

After three hours the battle subsides,

Our APCs have pushed back the tide.

It’s time to take stock, so they turn to young Paul

In the heat of the battle they had not seen him fall.

A funeral was held in his old home town,

And as the gun carriage came around,

Mum saw that her doors were opened wide,

So his spirit could find its way inside.

And they planted a tree for every man.

For the eighteen diggers who died at Long Tan.

Mum watered Paul’s till the day she died.

“It’s the tallest tree there!” she whispered with pride.

“We were proud of our brother!” his five sisters recall.

“He died for his country – he gave them his all.

Those soldiers were heroes – each and every man

Who fought in the rubber trees at Long Tan!”

Bill Charlton c 2010

*Dedicated to the Memory of Private Paul Large

Our Precious Values Are Not For Sale

What would they, the diggers of ANZAC say

As well as sons and daughters who followed in their way

If to see today’s prostitution and threats to our way of life

Values they defended with blood, sweat and tears in times of strife

Ghost Soldiers

Secret ballot, freedom of speech and have a go at any political rort

Always a Sunday choice; Church, camping in the bush or sport

These were some of the values why they were prepared to give all

Never again to be home and hear a loved one’s familiar sweet call

 

To properly honour them is to pursue their earnest intents

A happy prosperous land secure and free from evil malcontents

To work, share, care and speak out for what you hold dear

Decency, respect and to walk the streets alone without any fear

 

To welcome migrants and refugees who have had long orderly wait

Nevertheless, the edict is, only if they’re prepared to assimilate

Our rich values are not to be prostituted, surrendered or for sale

Even to consider compromise is to fail

 

To ensure our precious legacy is there for those who follow

To be safe and secure in a happy tomorrow

So those yet to be born can stand tall and speak with pride

I am, you are, we are Australian and always side by side

 

It’s time for step forward; “Wake up, arouse, stand to’’

The future of our land down under is up to me and you

Do I hear cheering and shouting from ghostly columns marching by?

“The spirit of our nation must never be allowed to die “

 

George Mansford ©April 2015

How to Avoid Adversity In 2015

Adversity comes in many forms as we know

Floods, drought, bushfire and cyclones on the go

Politicians we elect who can never get it right

Depressions, recessions and mortgages are a fright

outback

There are other types of challenges we meet

Complex official forms and red tape to complete

Election to decide between liars and idiots to lead our land

Opening tamper proof items with poor vision and arthritic hands

The best way to beat misfortune is to avoid it and you must

Walking alone on streets at night is a routine not to trust

Ignore what politicians promise; the chances are its pure spin

Be politically correct cos speaking your mind can be a terrible sin

Giving the finger to motor bike gangs passing by invites big trouble

When about to drive home, never ask the bartender for a double

Don’t joke about bombs when travelling by plane

That white shirt your wife laundered, don’t dare get a stain

It’s very dangerous to tell your mate she should lose weight

Future misery is harassing a partner because she’s running late

For any Germaine Greer, never surrender a seat or open a door

Challenging women is as foolish as running on wet slippery floors

Never argue or abuse the arresting officer or call him names

Playing or fiddling with your tax return could be an expensive game

Remember to pay insurance, registration, rates, taxes and other bills

If all this fails, just try laughing at yourself or take that bloody pill

George Mansford © January  2014