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Roy “Doc” Savages’ Diaries


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John Kelly & Roy Savage outside our barracks in Kapooka 1961

When we arrived at Kapooka there were already two platoons training there, we were to make the third platoon. We were issued with our Khaki uniforms and thirty-seven-pattern webbing which we had to Blanco, and polish all the brass. The training was tough; all our corporals were either veterans from the Second World War, Korea or Malaya. My platoon commander was a lieutenant by the name of Felix Fazecas who had escaped from Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956; he had been a Colonel in the Hungarian Army. It was in Kapooka that I met a guy by the name of 'Gabby Hayes' and we became friends, unfortunately he was to die in August 1967 at the battle of 'Suoi Chau Pah' in Vietnam.

It was in Kapooka that I had my first Charge for not shaving (I might add that I had never shaved before). Anyway I ended up with seven days confined to barracks. When allocation time came round I was allocated to Armoured Corps. On hearing this I requested Infantry. The allocation board believed I was unsuited for Infantry and informed me that if I didn't want to go to Armoured, then I could go to Engineers Band. I stuck to my guns and insisted that I wanted Infantry. I realised my mistake months later at Infantry Centre, as I was never a physical type of person in those days, not that I am now.

Infantry Centre was located in those days at Ingleburn in Sydney and was again hard. Our final exercise before being allocated to a unit was in the Colo Putty area south of Singleton. We were enemy against 1RAR. The exercise was called Ex 'Toughnut' and was to be their final exercise before going to Malaya. I remember it being bitterly cold as we still wore Khaki uniforms AB Boots and British gaiters. We had no cold whether gear at all so it was a godsend just to be on the move. 1RAR had to do a night withdrawal from a defended position. At 1am we slipped in-between B and C Coy's this caused utter confusion as we had learnt that placing a matchstick under the sear could make the SLR fully automatic.

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Platoon at Ingleburn

After surviving Infantry Centre I was too young to be a reinforcement for Malaya so I was posted to 3RAR at Enoggera in Brisbane, in those days before you were accepted into the Battalion you had to do a one- month course in Echo Company. Following that there was a Battalion parade where you were presented with your Unit Citation, which 3RAR had won at Kapyong in Korea in 1951, we were then allocated to a Company. I was posted to 19 Platoon Delta Coy (The Battalion in those days was Pentropic where the Rifle Companies had four Rifle Platoons plus one heavy weapons platoon) I was made a Bren Gunner; why, I'll never know, as there was nothing of me.

Most of our training took place in the hills to the north of Enoggera, as there was nothing North of Enoggera except bush. Our classification range was just outside our lines where the Task Force Headquarters is now. We would fire into Enoggera Hill. We would also fire the 3.5mm Rocket Launcher and the Energa grenade there.

In late 1961 the major exercise was down in the Colo Putty area south of Singleton in NSW. It was called exercise 'Icebreaker' which was an advance to contact with all Battalion vehicles. My section commander on this exercise was Shorty Turner who taught me that "there's a place for everything and everything in its place". If you were looking for something at night you would know exactly where to find it. It was during this exercise that my feet started bleeding so badly that I was put into the Coy Vehicle. On the second last night of being with the vehicle we were harboured in a tree line. The next morning after breakfast we were on the move again.

When the exercise was called off we moved another five miles to the Battalions pick up point. It was there that I realised that I had left my Rifle leaning up against a tree at the last night harbour I told shorty this and his reply to me was that if I could get my rifle and be back by 1700hrs then he would not charge me. Off I went bleeding feet and all. All traffic was heading for the different unit pick up points so I had seven miles to where I had left my rifle. By the time I got there and started back, the only vehicles on the road were from 2RAR which were heading to another assemble area away from ours so I had a long walk back.

I arrived back around 1645hrs; a lesson learnt as Shorty said "there's a place for everything and everything in its place". Unfortunately Shorty passed away in the early 1970's from a heart attack. Other memorable happenings on that Exercise were, lack of water, wearing the American steel helmet for the first time and the final assault on Mount Monandilla.

After the exercise we moved back to Holsworthy for a two day rest I managed to get a day off at home, however I read my leave pass wrong and arrived back twelve hours late; resulting in being charged and receiving seven days CB. After our rest the Battalion marched through Sydney. I can remember it quite well as we marched in full battle order. I was carrying the Bren and as Delta coy was just in front of the Armoured Cars, we could not hear the band. Needless to say, we were out of step and the crowds kept throwing pennies at us.

In 1962 I was assigned to the Jungle Training Centre at Canungra as a member of the Demonstration Platoon in Battle Wing. That was an enjoyable year in which I learnt a lot about tactics and jungle warfare. The major exercise of that year was exercise 'Nutcracker' (again down in the Colo Putty area). I was a signaller on that exercise and had to carry a Five-one-oh on my front for long range communications (the 5-1-0 was a radio with two parts, a transmitter and a receiver, worn where the basic pouches are normally worn), and a Ten set on my back. Our platoon was used as a recon platoon, our task being to get behind the enemy’s lines to disrupt and harass them.


Roy Savage at Canungra with 9mm Owen Gun 1962

During the time I spent at Canungra we did a lot of exercises as enemy on the New South Wales border at Levers Plateau and Wiangaree it was at this time I was involved with weapons user trails. The first, a weapon called the X3. This weapon was supposed to replace the Owen Gun. In my opinion, and the opinion of all those involved. It was a peace of junk. It was like pointing a broomstick. After we gave it a bad report, it was accepted by the Army and renamed the F1 Sub Machine Gun. The second weapon to be tested was a General-purpose machine gun called the M60. Again this weapon did not hold up under field conditions but fortunately was modified before replacing the .303 Bren Gun.

In 1962 the first members of what was to become the Australian Training Team Vietnam came through Canungra to do a course before leaving for Vietnam. A country that none of us knew about at the time.

In January 1963, we returned to Enoggera as 3RAR was due to relieve 1RAR in Malaya. After a few exercises in the Mount Royal area we were ready to go. For some reason I was transferred to 1RAR and told I would not be going to Malaya. When I questioned why, I was told that I had requested it. When things were sorted out I was again transferred back to 12 platoon Delta Company.

Our platoon commander at the time was Lt. Col Brewer, the platoon sergeant was Jim Edwards, and the Corporals were Lofty Eiby, Ronny Carroll (KIA Vietnam 1968) and Buster Dries. The Lcpls were Alex Swanson, Paddy Craig and Poppa Marchment. After being shown a propaganda movie made by the Viet Minh on Dien Bien Phu we were ready for Malaya.

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