Fifth Battalion the Royal Australian Regiment Association Masthead
Once We Were Soldiers

Australian Infantryman's Combat Badge
Once We Were Soldiers

   There is something important in the training of young soldiers if a military unit is to be successful in war and indeed critical in relation to the three fighting corps. In regard to the Infantry, an 'Esprit De Corps' or a fierce loyalty to a unit, a pride in its history, battle flags etc, is the cement that holds the battalions'―companies, down to platoons, sections together against the 'tide of war'. This!―In the case of the Australian Army in Vietnam, developed into an élan as the soldiers out-fought their opponents in the field and measured themselves not only against the VC and NVA, but also against the performances of their Allies and came to understand their worth.
   The Vietnam veterans on their return found anger, resentment and indifference. They were the generation that had gone through a school system in the 1950s that inoculated with daily doses of the Anzac superiority myth. How was it possible not to be damaged by the sheer injustice of it! And this, I believe, driven and nurtured only by political expediency. They were too young to know then―that to fight for your country today and be stoned tomorrow, is and always was, the price of democracy. Resentment descended into deep disillusionment as they watched in the 1970s, the irresponsible destruction of that army as the national servicemen were told to go home.
   Those in the service at that time tell how millions of dollars worth of equipment were lost as stores were abandoned, stolen or misplaced, as this organisation that they had been taught, and indeed had a right to be proud of, was gutted! And thus to depression. It was that Esprit De Corps you see
once implanted, you break the heart of a soldier if you destroy it. But despite, or perhaps because of this, there is still enough pride still within my broken heart to say:

"When in their company, I was in the 5th―I was a Tiger!"

Bob Cavill
C Company & Assault Pioneers 1st Tour.