Roy “Doc” Savages’ Diaries
APRIL 1968 TO FEBRUARY 1970
There was no one to meet me at the airport so I managed to get the last train out to Blacktown. I spent that night on the front steps of my parent’s place not wanting to wake them up; anyway I had a bottle of vodka to keep me company. My welcome home from my parents was cold. The first thing out of my father’s mouth was "Oh"! You're back, been over killing innocent workers again aye!"
As soon as I could I went round to see Mick Ayes Parents. They knew I was coming so the whole family was there, I was not received too well and was made to feel guilty that I had returned and not their Son. Infact one of the sisters virtually said just that. They told me that since Micks death they had been getting phone calls from Anti War protesters stating that they were glad their son was dead and that he deserved what he got for being over there, and that more Australian soldiers should die for killing innocent Women and Children. This disturbed me immensely. I had planned on visiting all the parents of all my soldiers that had been killed in action, however after that visit I could not bring myself to do it.
Two other incidents occurred around this time. The first being when I went to the Blacktown NSW RSL thinking I could get in and have a drink. The doorman asked who I was and I told him I had just returned from Vietnam. He refused me entry on the grounds that Vietnam was not a war and that I was not entitled entry into the RSL.
The second was when I was hitchhiking into Sydney. I was picked up by a group of young people in their late teens. We got to talking, but when they found out I had just returned from Vietnam they started giving me a hard time so I asked them to stop the car and I got out. I was starting to wonder if the world was going mad or was it just me.
At this time the Monash University students were collecting money to send to North Vietnam. The Posties were objecting to sending our mail to us and the Warfies refused to load the supply ships the "Japarat" and the "Boonaroo". We were Australians; however, our own countrymen and Women were against us. It just didn't make sense. I know one thing I will never forgive those anti war agitators led by Jim Cairns as long as there is breath in me.
From that time on I never admitted that I was a Vietnam Veteran, and in some circles I still don't.
After my leave I was posted as a platoon commander in Reinforcement Wing Infantry Centre. The first thing the bastards did to me was put me on a promotion course. I argued against going on it, as I was already fully qualified for Sergeant. I passed the course but didn't get a very good course report as they said I lacked interest and enthusiasm. Not recommended for promotion.
Whilst I was at Inf Centre, the battles of Coral and Balmoral were fought in Vietnam. I just couldn't settle down so I applied for the AATTV (Australian Army Training Team Vietnam) but before I could get an answer an opportunity for me to go before a reallocation board came up and seeing as I was getting in so much strife in Inf Centre I went before the board. They asked me where I wanted to go I could have gone to any battalion except 1RAR, which was next to go to Malaysia. I decided to go back to my old battalion 7RAR, which was next in line for Vietnam.
On arriving back in 7RAR I was posted to B Company and in June 1969 I was promoted to Sergeant and transferred back to my old company C Company (9 platoon) much to the objection of the Company Commander, as he wanted to promote one of his own men.
The Commanding Officer Colonel Ron Grey was a feared man. If you didn't shape up you were shipped out. It was rumoured that one officer lasted 20 minutes before leaving, to this day I can't think what he did to deserve that. This was on my mind when I was told to report to Battalion Head Quarters as the CO wanted to see me. I couldn't work out what I'd done wrong. I stood outside his door for about fifteen minutes stewing when a young officer came out and I was marched in. I was offered a seat and told that I was being given the worst officer in the battalion. Colonel Grey then put me on the spot by asking me who I thought it might be, so instead of keeping my mouth shut I made a guess. -Wrong-.
I was told I would be in command and that the officer would do nothing without first asking me. The CO believed that this officer could be saved and that it was up to me to train him. He then marched the officer in and repeated what he'd told me. I felt slightly embarrassed as well as moved that the CO would think enough of me to do this.
After leaving the CO's office I told the officer that what the CO proposed would not work and that no one should know what was happening, I told him we would both make the decisions, however it had to look like he was in command. So started a friendship between Lt Rob Pothof and myself. The CO asked me for a weekly report.
In July we did exercise "High Flight" in the Gospers Mountains section of the Colo Putty area. Here we were training for war in Vietnam and the last two days of the exercise it snowed.
Tianjara was next, a desolate training area south of Nowra Naval Airbase. The exercise was called "Ex King Kong". We corps trained 259 soldiers from 2RTB and 3RTB during this time, they finished their training in August.
During September and October the battalion was phased through the Jungle Training Centre at Canungra.
Exercise "Cold Steele" was next in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in late 1969. 3RAR were the enemy for that exercise. It was during this exercise we were being inserted into a LZ when I overbalanced and fell out of the bloody helicopter, landing on solid rock on my right knee. I tried to remain on duty, but hours later I could not even walk so I was evacuated back to the Base Hospital in Rockhampton and from there back to Sydney.
At the Military Hospital at Ingleburn I was told I would not be able to walk again properly and that I could forget about going back to Vietnam. I would not except the doctor’s findings and went through hell daily with the Physiotherapist.
In late January 1970 I was put in front of a Medical Board where they poked at my knee, even though I was in pain I kept a smile on my face and convinced them I was fit. They cleared me for service in Vietnam. I asked for and was given my old platoon back. I kept up the exercise on my knee well into my second tour of Vietnam and even today my knee still plays up.
At the time of going to Vietnam I had a problem with one of my soldiers 4720583 Pte S G Larrson who was a conscientious objector, I tried to get him out of the platoon on the grounds that he had problems with his eyesight, as without his glasses he was blind as a bat and at night time he just could not see at all even with his glasses on. The OC refused to post him out and he became a liability to the platoon. I kept trying to post him out up until his death
©Doc Savage 2004
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