© Roger Lambert
9 Platoon, C Company, 2nd Tour
During our tour of South Vietnam (1969/70), each Company had its
own ‘wet canteen’ or ‘boozer’ as we commonly called it. While we
Rifle Company (and Support Company) blokes were on operations,
there was no booze allowed to be served in these ‘wet canteens’.
Goffers (soft drinks) were OK but alcohol was strictly
prohibited. This was with good reason of course as the LOBs
(left out of battle or as some used to say, left on base) were
required to defend the ‘fort’ while we bush-bashed our way
around the Province.
Now as I recall, when we came in off operations, the boozer was
open but only between 1630 hrs and 1730 hrs. Thereafter came
dinner and the ‘wet canteens’ re-opened at 1930 hrs and traded
to 2130 hrs. I can’t recall whether there was any distinction
between weekdays and weekends but I suspect not. Routine Orders
stated that trading ceased at 2130 hrs (time, gentlemen please)
and the boozer had to be cleared by 2145 hrs. Now if memory
serves me correctly (and it quite often doesn’t these days), all
troops, irrespective of rank, had to be back in their lines by
2200 hrs (unless on duty manning the gun pits) and ’lights out’
was at 2215 hrs. The exception to the rule was that if the movie
was still going at 2200 hrs, you were allowed to stay to the end
and then take your ’chair, folding, troops for the use of’ and
return to your lines.
Like all young subalterns, the platoon commanders were rostered
at Company level as Duty Officers. Not only were we required
inspecting the Company kitchen and checking with the diggers
about the standard of the meals, we were also required to check
the perimeter and its defensive
GPMG bunkers. Less hazardous (or so I thought) was the
requirement to close the Company boozer and to ensure that
Routine Orders were upheld when it came to such closures, return
to the lines and lights out.
On one particular evening, in the latter half of the tour, as
Duty Officer, I arrived at the C Company ‘wet canteen’ at 2130
hrs and directed that trading cease and all troops finish their
drinks prior to me closing the ‘boozer’. I very quickly learnt
why we were taught during officer training to keep all our
buttons done up as, before I could say “last drinks”, I was
upside down, suspended from the rafter by toggle rope. While my
Field Message Note Book and wallet stayed in place in my shirt
pockets, and my trusty
9mm Browning pistol and spare magazine remained firmly in
the holster and side pouch, I had absolutely no idea what was
going on around me other than a sea of faces in JGs (Jungle
Greens) raucously laughing and hurling good-humoured jibes.
To this day, I have no idea what additional, after-hours bar
transactions may have taken place while I was upended but I
suspect quite a few. After what seemed an eternity but in
reality was but a few minutes, I was lowered to the ground.
Regaining my composure and in my best parade ground voice, I
ordered the assembled CHQ, 7 Platoon, 8 Platoon and 9 Platoon
soldiers to clear the boozer and to return to their lines.
I could still hear the muffled laughter as the diggers trudged
off to their respective tent lines, no doubt with pockets
stuffed with their ‘illegal’ after-hours tinnies. (And in case
you ask, yes we did know about your pseudo Eskies dug into the
ground under the duck boards of your tents.) As I headed for my
tent, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the episode and the
precision with which the plot to suspend the Duty Officer from
the rafters was executed.
Does the incident appear in any official reports? No. Do the
ringleaders know who they are? Yes. And do I know? I do now. The
moral of the story? There are two really:
Never underestimate the ingenuity of the Aussie Digger; and
always keep your buttons and holsters/pouches securely
fastened. You simply never know when you may be seeing the
world from a different perspective!
TALES FROM THE TIGER