Chapter 42: Christmas Lunch in January

Well it was true, Sum Wun wuz right again!  The officers and senior NCOs will serve us Christmas lunch.

This should be interesting.

CAPTIONMoon taking a bit of flack from the boys.

They are sending us down to Vung Tau for this auspicious occasion.  I’m not sure if the shooting at The Dat had anything to do with our going to Vung Tau or not – what a sad state of affairs that was.

It seems Private Ferriday, a driver with Air Despatch, was pissed and depressed when he fired his SLR into the Sergeants’ Mess killing two sergeants and wounding a third.  If he can shoot that well when he is pissed maybe he should be with the Grunts, not that we’d have him of course.

I spoke to a mate of mine about it, he was involved with the court martial proceedings.  He told me that initially they were going to let him off due to insanity.  How insane is that?  He was eventually charged with manslaughter and served eight years in prison.

Still we were determined to enjoy our Christmas lunch.  It was held at one of the unit mess halls at 1ALSG (1st Australian Logistic Support Group).  There were a number of units located near the beach at Vung Tau including the Peter Badcoe Club where we stayed on R&C.  I think they tried to keep us away from the other soldiers – you know what soldiers are like – any reason for a punch up.  But from time to time I caught up with blokes I served with in recruit training at Wagga some 18 months ago now.


At bottom right is Killer, then Digger in the centre and Ashes stuffing his face.
At bottom right is Killer, then Digger in the centre and Ashes stuffing his face.

The best one that comes to mind was meeting up with one of the Joss twins.  They were from Albury and both were conscripted because the callup was based on birthdates.  Sum Wun in our platoon was heading over to some canteen somewhere within 1ALSG where the boys celebrated an RTA (return to Australia) night.  Beer was 5 cents a can!  That was enough to get a few of us tagging along.  We were used to 20 cents a can and limited cans at that.  I dunno where these blokes got all their grog from and you can imagine how wild the night was – three blokes were heading home.  I think at one stage during the festivities they were stripped and soaked in beer – it seemed like a perfectly reasonable send off ritual at the time.

I saw Joss when I went up to the counter to get a few beers.  It was as noisy as hell and I had to shout out my shout, so to speak.  While I waited for the guy to get the beers, I looked to my left and there was Joss!

“Fuck me it’s Joss!  Howyagoingmateallright?” As I slapped him on the back.

The CSM, 'Mother', a picture of concentration.
The CSM, ‘Mother’, a picture of concentration.

“Hey Cav you fuckin’ dickhead.  What are ya doin’ here mate?”

“Haven’ a few beers mate.  You OK?”

“Yeah mate never better.  You?”

“Yeah good mate.”

“OK seeya mate.”

“Seeya mate”

Maybe I’ll catch up with the Joss boys again one day.  If you know the Joss boys from Albury tell them to give me a call.

But back to Christmas lunch in January.

Moon was in his element.  I think he may have been a bit pissed as well and we gave him a hard time with plenty of jeering and mock abuse.  He deserved it.  He spilt food all over his shoulder at one stage, I think one of the guys in 6 section was responsible for that.

The OC Captain B
The OC Captain B

Now I don’t want you to get the impression that every time we went to Vung Tau all we did was drink piss and had women chase us.  No. While that did happen of course, but if we played up too much it made our life unbearable when we went back out into the bush.  Usually we spent 36 hours in Vung Tau and then back on operations.  If you were suffering the effects of too much indulging you sweated it out pretty quickly humping that 40 kg pack through the steamy jungle; if you could keep up.

And then there was the danger of contracting nonspecific urethritis.  This meant that Doc the medic gave you needles in the arse out bush.

It was a nice gesture having a dinner like that – we all thoroughly enjoyed it and I think the officers and senior NCOs did as well.

We forgot all about the war, the problems back at The Dat, the fact that we missed our families back home; and we looked forward to getting our final six months in country behind us and then get the hell outa this place.



This story is now also available in ebook format. See here for details.

Reproduced with permission from FUN, FEAR, FRIVOLITY – A tale by an Aussie infantry soldier in the Vietnam War – which is now also available in ebook format. See here to order.



ian_cavanoughHi guys. I am a good-looking, opinionated old fart who relishes a spirited debate on any topic regardless of how much I think I know about it.
Ian Cavanough,
Tumut, NSW





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