5RAR Association Website
Once we were Soldiers

 

Australian Infantryman's Infantry Combat Badge
Mateship
 

© Dennis 'Digger' Nevins
7 Pl C Coy 2nd Tour
Author: Dennis 'Digger' Nevins

When I enlisted in 1967, I met up with a bloke who came from the land, his name was Robin Feldman. My army number ended in 32, then there was 'Tubby' Fay. His number ended in 33
(he went to 9RAR) and Robin Feldman 34.

Robin and I became mates early. He was thin and wiry and liked a to have a 'Tally Ho' (roll your own cigarette) hanging from his mouth. Because of his thin, wiry frame I nicknamed him "Stick." We went to Kapooka and from that time on he and I became more than mates ... we were cobbers. We were allocated Infantry and sent to Ingleburn for Infantry Corps Training.  We were in the same tent which was good because that meant we didn't have to clean windows and polish floors like those who got the huts.

Upon completion of training most were posted to 5RAR and of those, most were given A Company, including Stick. I was given Tracker Platoon; but I so much wanted to be with A Company as we had been together since enlisting. From then on we did about 10 months of training, then on to South Vietnam.  and I kept in touch on operations by letter writing. In August '69  many soldiers from 3 Platoon and Assault Pioneers became casualties . I myself on that day was with trackers at a Fire Support Base and could see a massive amount of air support going in. I never read much about this heavy contact but I always thought what outstanding job our Diggers did.  He recovered from his wound, I remember him telling me of the dozens of RPG-7s fired amongst them, of the explosions when they hit solid trees and how they struggled for cover.  Once recovered, Stick continued on operations and was once again wounded engaging bunkers. He told me at the time when he was hit that he laid his rifle down saying he didn't want to fight anymore. Who could blame him as 3 Platoon had done plenty of hard yakka

Once again  he recovered and went out on operations again, his little moment of not fighting was over and he was back on the job again.

During the tour, we by chance, made contact with two pen pals who were the best of mates as well.  I arranged to meet up with girls upon RTA (Return To Australia). With our tour complete it was back on the HMAS Sydney to Sydney, where we marched through the city for a great welcome.Robin Feldmanfrom there we flew back to Brisbane where we shook hands knowing that we were going to meet up with our pen pals in Melbourne. I turned up to meet my pen pal but  Stick never did. I couldn't make contact, but let me tell you his pen pal was a good sort. The pen pal and I got on well but I had to return to Brisbane as I had been posted to 9RAR. The university students at the time were creating a ruckus so my Company was put on guard duty at Victoria Barracks. On one of those nights I had call in the guard room from Peter Macdonald (ex tracker platoon) telling me  Stick had been killed in a car accident. All he knew was that the car had hit a bridge. That's how it was for the next 45 years, I never heard anymore. All through those years I've always kept a framed photograph of  Stick and always carried a photo of him in my car wallet. When I change cars his photo always goes into the new vehicle. This year my daughter Sara decided to find out more info on the internet and by chance she came upon a message from a bloke by the name of Ken Williams, he had written about the car accident. So Sara left a message saying how I never had info about the incident and how I always carried a photo of him. That seemed to be the end of it until last Sunday night at 1700hrs, the phone rings, I wasn't going to answer as the footy final wasn't long on starting. I'm glad I did, as the bloke on the other started telling me about the accident. After about a minute I had to ask him to stop and tell me who he was. He said he was Ken Williams and that he had read the message Sara had left.

After 45 years I finally found out the story and had a sense of closure. Ken's close friend was also in the car and survived, the other bloke did also but they had terrible injuries. As for  Stick, he died at the scene. They had hit a bridge crossing a water canal near Griffith NSW. Ken knew his mate died in early 2000 and wondered what happened to his service medals as he had no family whatsoever. So he put out the info on the internet ... did anyone know what happened to the medals? Some months passed and he got a reply from a bloke saying he found them for sale and had bought them. As luck would have it, he lived in Melbourne only a couple suburbs from Ken. They agreed to meet and because of the meeting the medals were handed to Ken for his custody. Ken still wasn't finished, he then applied to Australian Honours and Awards  for any other medals that his mate was entitled to. This took its time but he was given three more medals to keep in his custody. I congratulated him on his effort and sense of duty. Ken has sent me news cuttings of the accident but I wanted to know one thing ,where was he buried? Ken couldn't tell me and I'm now on the search to find where Stick's final resting place. I hope one day to get the answer and when I do, I want to pay  a visit and tell him that even after 45 years he was the best cobber I ever had.

Next month I take possession of a new Ute and once again the photo of  Stick will be placed in the glovebox. That's the end. He wasn't known by that nickname in A Company but Lofty. My pen pal still keeps in contact, she married a bloke who started a company called Kambrook he named it after Kambrook road in Melbourne and went from a backyard workshop to a multi national company.

BACK TO ONCE WE WERE SOLDIERS | BACK TO CONTENTS PAGE