G'day 'Smithy'... thought it
about time I brought you up to date since I last saw you way back in '69. What a
bugger! You died of wounds from friendly fire on the 11th August 1969. Bloody
hell mate, I'm not sure where to begin. As usual for me, it's way past midnight
and I can't sleep; nothing new about that though.
many days go by when I don't think of you and the other
blokes that didn't make it home. To make matters worse
mate, I gotta tell you that we bloody well lost to
remember when I used to pick you up in the old EK and
head back to Holsworthy after a rare weekend's leave.
You always insisted on sitting in the back seat
... reckoned it was safer. I felt like your bloody
chauffer until we collected Mick Skelly at Goulburn.
probably forgotten, but we were out 'scrub bashing' one
day when the three day old papers were 'choppered in'
with some extra rations and clean greens. I recall you
reading that your old man John Sommerville-Smith was on
page 3 again. He'd upset some politician with the
Melbourne rag he owned. While I think of it, your
brother has changed his name to 'Sid' (Sidney) so reckon
his initials are now SSS. I met up with Sid and your
sister Kathy too, but I'll tell you about that later.
recollection I have of you mate, is our trip on the
'Vung Tau Ferry'. You were running the roulette game and
by the time we hit Vietnam you owed me a lot of money.
You said to me, "If you are the cause of me having to
get a real job when we get back to civvie street I'll
never forgive you." So, we decided to call it quits and
that you'd never again offer a punter "no limit
as hell left your mark though with the Task Force
bookie, when you put a year's wages on a nag called
Tetrabine one Saturday. I was with you in your tent,
when the bookie called in to tell you that he couldn't
afford to pay you out. He requested that you wait until
after the 'Sydney Cup' on the Monday. I'm sure you'll
recall that you told him to "put it all up on Lowland"
in the Sydney Cup; the bloody thing won at 7/2. That was
the last bet the bookie ever took from you.
your Dad at your funeral when I came home about a week
after that terrible blunder. I innocently said "a pity
about the accident". Your Dad went into a rage as he'd
been initially told otherwise. Eventually the truth of
the tragic friendly fire came out. For many years I have
been going to go to the cemetery, this year I finally
did, with your brother and sister.
know, that our old school, St. Edmund's College, have
built a memorial to those that served in Vietnam. It was
completed for Remembrance Day 2005. I know that you were
never one for long shots mate, but you have pride of
place on the Memorial Wall. If I had my way, Smithy, I'd
'whack' the roulette wheel in the wall for you, but not
sure they would approve.
how I met up with Kathy and Sid. I managed to track
Kathy down with 20 odd phone calls and it was great to
meet up with your family. I'm going to post this on
our 5 RAR website so you'll know your not forgotten.
F. Smith 21
Pte. Smith was
a journalist when he was drafted on May
1, 1968. Pte. Smith died from friendly
fire in 1 Australian Field Hospital Vung
Tau on August 11, 1969.
Lest We Forget