As a wide eyed smooth faced kid of 18 years I joined up in the
ARA (Australian Regular Army) for a period of not less than six years. I
remember it well... Melbourne Cup day 1967 we arrived in Melbourne to find an
almost deserted Angelsea Barracks. That resulted in a mandatory tour of the
local hotel scene. Probably nothing new in that, but it somehow set a scene that
was followed for many years to come.
A few days later we arrived at the rural settlement of Wagga
Wagga to which was attached 1RTB Kapooka. I have no records of my service so for
those more concerned with exact detail I would appreciate the corrections.
I seem to recall being in 6 Platoon A Company, that could be
right, as it was a training battalion the structure was not the same as the
exalted 5th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment I was later to join.
The next twelve weeks were to say the least the fastest paced
learning curve I have ever, to this day attended. We learnt to shoot, shit,
shower, shave, shampoo, salute, starch, march (nearly) sheet change, salvage,
scavenge, and more new terminology than I thought existed.
We survived, all of us I think, I remember Bill Cameron, Mick
Appleby, and Barry Baker all deciding if we were going to be in the Army we may
as well be grunts.
In hindsight I would have to say it was probably one time when I
was allocated my first choice.
Early February saw us march out and off to Ingleburn for another
12 week training stint, I saw my first of many new things here as well,
remembering of course I had only turned 18 in September 67 and it was now
I was lured by the bright lights, the girls of the night, and
many other things that were far more exciting than our training staff could come
up with. This of course led to the odd A4 (military offence). It is worth
pointing out that at this point in time I had not heard of a far off country
called Vietnam. I was also having trouble coming to terms with middies at 14
cents a hit, boy a two dollar note lasted a long time those days.
Once again we survived, but not all; I can’t remember who we
lost at this point along the way, terrible thing that CRAFT. Anyway off to
Holsworthy, what a sight new buildings brick and all, proper showers great
canteen and a new badge for my hat, oops hats. And of course WO2 Lake. We
drilled, we marched, we trained and somewhere along the line I heard of this
place called Vietnam.
The usual routine followed, training in exotic locations such as
Rockhampton, Canungra then before you know it on the HMAS Sydney for a 19 day
scenic cruise up the west coast of Australia over the dead calm of the China Sea
and then our new home for 13 months.
Enough has been written I believe, about the traumas we all
encountered in that country, I prefer to dwell on the characters I got to know
from that part of my life, and how I still enjoy their friendship And trust that
I will for years to come.
I started off by saying this was from a lucky digger.
I remained in the Army until late '78, my return to 'civie'
street was a very difficult period, suffice to say that a couple of lost years
found me in Whyalla South Australia where I got work for BHP, 21 years on I have
secured my future with the help of a patient partner.
I am working on the development of an olive grove on my 25 acre
retreat in the Southern Flinders Ranges about 2.5 hours north of Adelaide. This
is my retirement plan and is well under way with 900 trees planted over the last
couple of years.
We have lost too many too soon and I hope that my story will be
seen as a positive one where for many years for all of us there has been too
Hickory. (61857 Pte Gregory Charles Dick, formerly of
ONCE WE WERE SOLDIERS |