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Roy “Doc” Savages’ Diaries

 

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NOV 1965 TO APR 1967

After leave the married members of the battalion stayed with 3RAR and were posted to Woodside just outside Adelaide South Australia, while the single members were sent to Puckapunyal in Victoria to form a new battalion 7RAR.

I arrived there on the 11th of November 1965. At first there was only regular soldiers, We used to keep the boozer open all weekend having the cooks bring our meals there anyway on my second week there the new CO (Colonel Eric Smith) decided to inspect his new battalion area on a Sunday, he immediately closed the boozer, the next day he called a muster parade of the whole battalion and commenced to tell us what he thought of us, half way through his speech he said and I quote "you are nothing but a mob of pigs" then from the back rank someone called out "oink oink" from that time onwards we became the Pig Battalion. He also confined us all to barracks for two weeks, which no one paid attention to.

After receiving our first intake of National Servicemen we started training for service in Vietnam. In August 1966 I did an Aircraft Loaders course at Richmond RAAF base, it was during this course that a Hercules just in from Vietnam landed, on board were the 18 leadlined coffins (the dead from the battle of Long Tan) the smell was terrible it was a smell I was to encounter many times after that, a smell I never got used to.

The remainder of the year was taken up with exercises in places like Mt Black and Gospers both of these places were miserable, here we were training for war in the jungles of Vietnam and it was snowing.

In 1966 I read a book called "Street without joy" by Bernard Fall, it had a large effect on me as it was about the Indo-China war in Vietnam against the French, the French lost whole battalions time after time to the man culminating in the big defeat at Dien Bien Phu.

In February 1967 my six year enlistment was up so in mid January of that year, after deciding to get out, I was sent to Eastern Command Personnel Depot for discharge, it was a troubling time for me as part of me was saying get out, while the other part was saying if you don't go to Vietnam you'll regret it later. I also thought I was letting a lot of people down, anyway three days before my discharge date, after a heavy night in Kings Cross I told the Chief Clerk I wanted to re-enlist.

Well you would have sworn I had just kicked his pet dog, he ranted and raved, called me all the names under the sun, showed me my discharge certificate then threw it across the room, he then marched me in to the OC's office who did the same thing and finished by saying "well I don't know whether we want you back" he then rang the CO of 7RAR.

I could only hear one side of the conversation, which went something like this. "Sir I have a Cpl Savage here who is due for discharge on the 9th of this month all his paperwork is done and he has been Q cleared, he is causing us trouble as he has just asked to re-enlist and he wants to return to 7RAR. Sir are you willing to take this soldier back? - pause- yes sir - pause - yes sir - pause right sir" he then hung up, turned to the chief clerk and said "get this man on a train back to Puckapunyal this afternoon and get him out of my sight" I thought to myself 'touchy bastard'.

On arriving back in the battalion area I found out my mates had been betting I'd be back. We did two exercises in Shoalwater Bay training area near Rockhampton these were 'Barrawinga' and 'Nilla-Qua' the battalion went through the jungle training centre at Canungra, after that we went on pre-embarkation leave, by late March we were ready to go to Vietnam.

 

Training at Shoalwater Bay

I was chosen to go over on the advance party. Because we were going through other countries we could not wear uniforms so we wore Army shoes and trousers with civilian shirts which was bloody ridiculous.

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