Archive number: 1679
Preferred name: Thommo
Date interviewed: 24 March, 2004
You are listening to the interview audio
Just give us your sort of five minute CV [Curriculum Vitae] of your life.
Basically, name is Dale J. Thompson, I was born 2nd of the 12th ’71, in Mount Isa, according to me mother. I’ve had bloody, me biological Dad
took off when I was pretty young and I was raised environmentally, by me environmental Dad. Come in here, basically moved into Townsville with me grandma, stayed with her for a while. Then Mum met Dad who was in the army at that stage, went through all that cycle here in Townsville. Loved playing cricket when I was younger and that. As I got older, obviously me Dad at that time, influence, used to take us out to the army base and that stuff, and we used to watch a lot of the blokes in that area going
through their TOETs [Tests Of Elementary Training] and stuff. So the army was a bit of an influence on me back then. But at that stage I didn’t really want to jump into it, I got two brothers, an older one and a younger one. All of us at some stage have been in the Defence Force. Adrian got out because he had an accident in the range and went pretty well deaf in both his ears. Me little brother’s still in the army now, been to Timor and that, still out there at 1RAR [1st Royal Australian Regiment]. Yeah,
me mother pretty well held on and got jobs here and there to support us with our grandma. Then I sort of grew up and tried a little bit of everything. Dad got out of the army, went to West Australia, went over there to schooling, tried TAFE [Technical and Further Education college], do a bit of surveying. Dad worked in the mines when he got out, so did my mother. Went through that for a while and Dad got a job back over here at a place called Boorilee out the back of Burdekin Dam. From there I worked in the
mines for a bit, getting on and off jobs, getting cash, pretty good cash then. It was pretty good so I got into motor bikes and stuff. Then from there, I thought, “Oh well, I can’t handle this so I’ll come back into town for a while,” worked for one of me uncles doing a bit of fencing, bit of concreting. Then from there I thought, “Oh well, I’ll give this army a shot” sort of thing, cause that’s what I sort of always wanted to do. So I joined the reserves at first, went to 31RQR [Royal Queensland Regiment] down at Jezzine Barracks, down at The Strand there.
Went there for a while, run into a few mates there, had a bit of time, mainly only went bush, didn’t want to do much else, I didn’t like any of that parade work and stuff like that. So I enjoyed more going bush and having a bit of fun and that with the blokes and stuff. Then from there obviously just bounced around here and there doing odd jobs, and I thought, “Oh well, I sort of have to get me life in structure here’, so I thought, “Oh, I’ll go join the Defence Force, the regular army.” And I thought, “Oh well, the Army Reserve would be, I was having a bit of fun there.” So
I basically joined up there, got in there, got a rude shock as everyone does, change from Army Reserve, they treat you a little bit different, physical training was obviously a lot more but I enjoyed that sort of stuff. Went through there, got posted, I went to Singleton obviously, I went to Kapooka first, went through Wagga Wagga, enjoyed it there, got a really good lot of blokes at 13 Platoon, Bravo Company [B Company]. Then went from there, went into infantry, they basically said, “What do you wanna do?” when I was at Kapooka. And I said, “Well,”
I didn’t really want to count blankets or anything like that because otherwise I would’ve stayed in the mines and made a whole lot more money that I was in the army. So I said, “Oh look I’ll go infantry.” The old man was a bit of an influence in that and his Dad was a pilot before that in [World War] II, bombers and that. So basically I said, “I’ll go infantry,” and the old man said, “Oh you gotta go 2/4 because I was there,” and I said, “Nah, I’ll go where all me mates go,” the normal stuff. So I ended up getting posted up here into 1R [RAR], and basically started for the twelve months
there or so, and then it got up to eighteen months. And then we basically got, on me holidays over to Western Australia we got recalled to go to Somalia. And pretty well, that’s about me life in a quick, five nutshell.
That’s good, that’s excellent, best we’ve had. What’s your earliest memory?
Of which, of my life?
Of your life.
Probably a little girl called Rebecca, I was playing on the swings when I was going to Central down The Strand there. And
that’s about as far back as I think I can go, that’s not patchy. Besides that, going through being a normal teenager going through Townsville here, being with the hooligans that you normally do, driving fast cars, chasing chicks. And then decided obviously I didn’t want to just bounce around, which I was doing at that stage, getting into more trouble than I was, should have been. So I thought, “Oh well, I’ll go the army,” cause it, that’s what I always wanted, I wanted to go to SAS [Special Air Service] and stuff. But obviously that never eventuated but
that’s how life goes, you gotta go there to have a good time.
Do you remember anything about Mount Isa at all?
Oh not really. Basically it’s pretty vague, I was pretty young, born there and we sort of shipped off pretty early. By I think age of two, Mum was saying that we went to places like Gympie, Charters Towers, all that sort of stuff where me biological Dad basically... Then after that, she doesn’t really say much into that but obviously I think she told him to piss off. And then she brought us all in here to Townsville
because her mother was here, just up from the hospital there, she had a nice house there. And we stayed there for a while until Mum got on her feet again and obviously she went out and then met me Dad that I’ve got now, me environmental Dad that raised me basically from the ground up. We used to live in the old cabbage patch area, which is like, 99 Leopold Street, over there at Aitkenvale, and I used to go to Aitkenvale Primary. Then Dad got out cause obviously medical reasons, his knee got all chopped up and stuff,
so he got out. Then he went in into the mines where the money was because basically, that’s where a lot more money, so we went to West Australia.
Do you remember like when your mum first moved from Mount Isa, all the bouncing around that you did, do you remember any of that?
Oh a lot of that, being young, not really, I’m pretty well vague on sort of stuff like, Mum talks about and shows photos and that, like being in the snow and stuff like that and I can’t even remember being in the snow but she keeps going on, “Yeah, I took you to the snow.” And I’ve got no recollection of that but,
obviously we’ve been there cause we’ve got photos and stuff.
So Townsville as a young bloke, that’s probably the first real memories, at the cabbage patch?
Yeah, basically yeah, growing up when sort’a Mum met Dad, here in Townsville and then got sort’a into that army sort of life, and then basically growing up here at Aitkenvale and stuff like that. And then the biggest percentage of me life I remember more of would be West Australia obviously, when we went to places like Southern Cross where Dad got a job out there at Marvel Loch. And it’s because
basically that was getting into the more teenage age and obviously remember more cause you get into more trouble, more girls, more playing sports. Like I used to play nearly every sport, cricket, football, used to play league obviously in Queensland then I went over there and I had to start playing aerial ping pong, or Aussie Rules [Australian Rules Football], and I quite enjoyed that game actually. And then besides that they were most of the times I remember, then come back here and then messed around for a bit and decided well I gotta sort
me life out. And I decided well I might as well go do what I’ve always wanted to do and join the army.
Do you remember anything at all about primary school?
Mainly little bits at Central and stuff, a fair bit at Aitkenvale, mainly getting in trouble and hanging on the back of doors and stuff, by me teacher, and made to write word out, friggin hundred times for being naughty as usual. And a couple of the local kids jumping out the top of the building and running off cause the teacher was chasing
’em. But yeah, basically a lot of that’s pretty well vanished, you know, since, I don’t know why. They say sometimes if you get too many experiences in the top side of your life, a lot of it at the bottom, so, just gotta take that with a grain of salt I suppose.
So most of your memories start in Western Australia do they, for you?
Oh yeah, there’s patchy bits but that’s where the main bits sort of influenced me I suppose. Cause they say anyway, technically, when is it, from there, sixteens or whatever up to about your
nineteens where you actually develop what you’re gonna have, your thought process for the rest of your life. Well it’s gonna make your opinion of who you are and stuff, that’s the sort’a area I suppose I remember more. From the experiences from everything from watching me mates, go from, they could have been like basketball players for Australia and getting into drugs, to people writing off their cars cause they’re drunk, things like that, that sort of stuck with me from then. But the rest of it, nah, I don’t remember that.
That’s all right. Can you
maybe recall sort of mum saying, “We’re going to Western Australia?”
Oh yeah, way back then I can remember that sort of stuff.
Was that a bit of a shock to you?
Nah, sort of we bounced around a fair bit, and we sort of accepted it. Like to me, being at that age, I’ve always been pretty adventurous. So to me it was like, yip yah, we’re getting out of Townsville, we’re gonna go do something. It was a bit disappointing at first cause I was going for, at that stage I was going for the Townsville trials for cricket for me age, and then I was looking
at maybe going for the Queensland squad. But then all turned around and basically I went to the initial trials and then basically that was it, it was like, you can’t be really selected because we’re going to West Australia. And I said, “Oh well, take that with a grain of salt again.” I missed a window, you gotta accept that in life and go on with it I suppose, the best you can.
So your cricket, you loved cricket at that first start at home?
Yeah, basically bloody always been into sport, I think me Mum sent me there just to wear me out, I was pretty hyperactive
as a young kid so it was like, “Yeah go play cricket son, and that’ll wear you out a bit.” So, but yeah, pretty well enjoyed it being up like, raised in that sort of DK Lillee and Marsh era, so I enjoyed me cricket well and truly. Don’t play enough of it now, got into the army and that all sort of went, cause I thought, “Oh I’ll get into the army and I’ll play a lot of sports,” yeah I got a rude shock then. It was more physical training than it was anything to do with sports and that.
Did you play any cricket in the army?
Oh every chance, went to a couple of practice here and there but
yeah, lot of other influences there with clashes with other blokes and stuff. But yeah, I enjoyed it but I missed out and thought oh well that’s sort of over, I’m here to do a job, so I thought I’d get me other stuff up, me physical training.
How’d you get from here across to Western Australia?
At first? Initially Dad flew over to start his job earlier and then we mainly all drove over. We’ve done the trip heaps of times across the Nullarbor and that, family’s fairly adventurous in that stuff.
So pick up and just drive across, take most of your stuff in your trailer and that and a removals, cause you had to get your car across anyway. And then coming back was the same thing but I flew back with Dad when he got his job back over here. Cause he, someone to go with him and that was about five plane trips, that was very interesting and then Mum drove over with the other boys and bloody. A trailer and our pug and everything else, and our grandma across the Nullarbor, trying to friggin die of heat... So, they’re all adventures in my life.
Especially with my mother, she’s very adventurous.
Can you tell us about your mum?
Mother, yeah, pretty well raised us from straight up, looked after us the best she could, basically what she did. Always pretty well nurtured us, looked after all our needs, if we needed to talk, gives us a smack when we needed a good smack, which I think all mothers did in those days. Generally she’s made me fairly the person I am today. Sometimes she thinks I’m a bit
sensitive and all that, but she’s done a fairly good job for that time and age I suppose. She had a husband at that stage that was more getting into other scenes and decided, “Oh well if this is gonna be my life, I’ll give it a go by meself.” Had the support of her mother in Townsville here and took off and thrived, and never really looked back. Then obviously married my environmental Dad who was in the army and that, obviously at that stage being in Townsville, army was a big influence then. And then they obviously kicked off and that
and then we moved into, Dad got a house over at Leopold Street, we all moved in there and started a new life, and Dad was pretty good. Me Mum sort’a turned around and said, “Don’t try and be the father, I’ll handle a lot of the discipline,” because obviously he’s coming in and just said, “Be their friend.” And that’s basically how Dad was, he was more our friend than our father. So you sort’a, you could do what you want sort’a with Dad and get away with it but if Mum found out she brought in the discipline. And that’s where you get all the smacks from.
And what was discipline from mum?
Oh the usual, the
spoon, a lot of other stuff. Wasn’t too vicious, but a lot of times we deserved it. Had a few cases. I had an incident, I think it would’ve been years ago, me and me brother were sitting up at that crossing there in town, as you go under the bridge there near Castle Hill and that. And we were up there and me and me brother are there and he wanted to have a look and that’s why they got a steel fence there now. And me brother fell and went pheoow, boof, hit the ground and stuff and I had to run home and didn’t I get a wailing for that. So but Chris was in a
coma I think about three or five days. I don’t think he still lets it down nowadays, but they got a steel fence there now.
Must’ve been scary at the time having that happen to you?
Oh, being young and that, bloody, I’ve run home thinking I’ve killed him and all that. And Mum’s in to me giving me what for. I don’t think I sat down for a week after that, but I think she was just happy that... I was lucky the first lady on the scene come over the crossing there was actually a nurse from the hospital going home. So they got hold of him pretty quick and that. I think he’s got a thick head,
personally, if you ask me.
And your grandma must’ve played a pretty big role in...?
Yes Gran was a big role in my life, she was, pretty well nurtured us our, fair bit.
Was she your mum’s mum or your dad’s mum?
Yes Mum’s Mum on that side of the family. So yeah, gran was pretty hard to live with, but you had set rules, you crossed the sand you got the same thing. But where she lived was really good and that and obviously down where we used to go to Central and that. And basically the house she bought there was originally cause when she had a lot of problems, her
husband Ted bought it years ago so she’d be close to the hospital. So it was pretty refuge sort of there and then we got to go down to Central and play cricket and all that sort of stuff, so it was pretty close to The Strand and that.
What was The Strand like back then, must’ve been a bit different to what it is now?
Oh a lot different back then but yeah we used to play a lot in the parks, Queens Garden all that, Bell Garden or whatever you want to call it at this stage now. But yeah, we enjoyed that sort of stuff, we got into a bit of ruckus here and there, me gran put us
straight, especially with all our uncles and that, it was pretty supportive, but they weren’t too bad sort’a. And then obviously Mum got married, Dad in the army, and obviously the family was a little bit orientated then. A lot of me uncles didn’t like army, but they reckon Dad was probably one of the first ones that they appreciated for like being an army bloke, or the A.J. back then they used to call, the Army Jerk. But no, they approved of Dad so he got the okay (model...UNCLEAR) and he got to marry Mum.
Do you remember anything of your biological dad?
Not really, mainly out of photos, I’ve got heaps of photos and that. I’ve asked me Mum several times whether he’s still alive or whatever happened. I’ve got step-brothers somewhere and I’ve never seen them before either. But she reckons she’s seen his sister around Townsville a few times and I’ve coming of age sort’a now and I’ve thought, “Oh well, if you ever see her, if he’s still around, if he ever wants to know me to have a talk, so I can blame him for me bald spot on the back of me head.”
And what else can you tell us about your environmental dad?
Graham, very good, comes from, he’s friggin highly intelligent, had a little bit of trouble at school, helped me through all that. Loved playing sports, very active himself and being a man that’s never had children before and suddenly had three boys to handle, I think he enjoyed it cause we were all pretty adventurous, and he sort of liked that stuff. He used to take us out the bush and help us, like point out the Southern Cross, how to
navigate, he sort of enjoyed that sort of stuff cause he’s got to pass a lot of knowledge on I suppose. And then we enjoyed motorbikes, camping, and Dad was sort of right in to that sort of stuff at that stage, and he, suppose he knew it was his sort of job to be our friend and that, and then Mum handled, like I said, all the discipline side.
From the time your biological dad left or got the arse, and then Graham...
Technical term, yeah.
what sort of time period was that?
I think it was a couple of years, would’ve been two, three years, I don’t know the exact facts, I’d have to ask me old... I don’t worry too much about the technical side of it, all happens for a reason.
Do you remember much of that time where you didn’t have a dad in the scene?
Yeah and no, mainly just at me grandmother’s place. Mum keeps reminding me with photos, nothing unusual, you know how your Mum’s gotta pull out photos, especially when you get a knew girlfriend back then, “This is little Dale.” So, yeah, trying to embarrass the hell out of you, but they’re only
the bits I suppose I remember and stuff.
So you’re chasing girls around even then?
Oh back then, oh, Mum reckons when I was born I looked like a carrot. I had bright red hair, and I was red as well and they go, all the ladies used to come up, “God he’s an ugly baby.” Well you can’t have everything. Like a bottle of wine, I think I must’ve got better by the years gone by.
And down The Strand, did you used to go swimming down there?
Yeah pretty well, well Mum used to take us down there and go swimming, pretty well, like the Old Rock,
everywhere else but most of the time it’d be down there playing in the parks, like I said in the park.
Were the stingers [box jellyfish] as big a concern when you’re a kid as what they are now?
Oh, as far as I can remember back then, I’m not sure. Being a kid that was superfluous stuff to me, I was worried about where me next feed was and me game of cricket.
Did you ever go over to Magnetic [Island]?
Yes, we got photos of us over there with all the, like the crocodiles that were in the cages back then, but it was a lot more laid back as it was over there.
But being typical in Townsville, sort’a we only went over there once in a blue moon sort of thing. You know how it is, usually when it’s at your door step you don’t appreciate it as much. But yeah, we did go over there when we’re younger and that with the family and stuff.
Like having been here for so long, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen here with Townsville?
Townsville, holy dooley. It’s grown heaps, it’s changed, a lot more street lights and round-a-bouts. But Townsville’s always been a place where you’ve sort of needed a car to drive, where the bus
service years ago was terrible, it’s a lot better now, but yeah, just grown. Well at one stage there, I think it was one of the fastest growing cities in Australia or even Queensland, so it’s pretty well grown since I’ve known it. Like everything from The Strand’s changed, housing. Well I used to ride a motor bike around the area where I live now, and we used to go through here and get ripped apart by all the shonky [low quality] apple trees and everything else. Cause the Kirwan School’s where me cousins used to go and we used to
play over here a fair bit, so I know all this area pretty well. And then right down the other side there where they got a lot of houses, we used to go down and shoot twenty-two’s in the cans, so you couldn’t do that now cause it’s full of houses and pretty urbanised, so it has changed.
Must have been great fun as a kid being able to ride your motor bike and shoot and just all the scrub land and everything around the place?
Yeah, it, sort of, from me Mum didn’t like much to do with rifles and that, me uncles all obviously had it way back then cause they used to work a lot on properties and stuff like that.
And they sort of thought of, “Oh well you gotta be a boy or a man, you gotta be able to at least shoot a rifle back then.” But yeah most of me cousins were into it and stuff like that, so that’s where I first, suppose, got to fire a rifle and that.
Besides Graham, did you have any other sort of uncles or blood relatives that’d served before in the forces?
Oh not, mainly down me mother’s side, yes, we’ve got oh, gotta start remembering names now. Had a few uncles like in a lot
of the Great Wars and stuff like that. And like we had at one stage there, we went down to see one of me great uncles and he actually, it was only about two weeks after we seen him that he died. And he met Graham at that stage and me, me Dad, and we’re in a room and he just gas bagged for hours, eh, just told a lot of stuff that he’d never really told anyone, which is very sad. And eventually after that he died, but I suppose at one stage he saw, I suppose a relate-ability,
dad being infantry as well. At that stage I wasn’t looking at the army but I was getting pretty close, but he could relate to Dad, and he just told him a lot of stuff that, I suppose he probably didn’t tell a lot of other people, except for his mates.
And you heard those stories as well?
Yeah it was very, like, interesting stuff, that he sort’a just wanted to get off his chest. Nothing dramatic, nothing over the top, didn’t want to say anything. But it’s a bit sad now cause a lot of his family that he had, immediate family, had nothing to do with it. Didn’t want anything
to do with his medals, didn’t want to sort of march on Anzacs [Day] or anything, so it’s pretty sad, but I take everyone’s opinion for what it is.
When you think back at all the reasons that you, that went towards you joining the army, do you reckon that, him telling you those stories had anything to do with that?
Yeah, it was Dad, being a bloody fighter bomber and stuff like that, and Dad. Not so much that, it’s also I suppose from Dad has always wanted to be, more of the adventure. Like everything, you read all the books, you go back to World War I,
World War II, why did people join up, to look for the adventure. You all know that yes you may die and stuff, but you don’t join the army to have a cup of tea and stuff and sit around. Like I’ve always been like that, even now, I prefer to go, do more adventurous stuff than I do to sit around in a house, it’s not me it’s in me blood. As they say, being a Sagittarius, some people say that we’re more adventurous than others and seek out. They say if you get a room full of a hundred people, Sagittarius is always gonna be
either disagree with everything everyone else says. So, I think that’s in my make up as it was, it just found a calling I suppose that I enjoyed. Like I enjoyed in the army and that, come around the time when everything finishes at the end.
And Townsville’s always been a real garrison town, what can you remember of the army and the air force in Townsville?
Used to be good, where we used to live in Aitkenvale and that, we used to play with a lot of other different kids, like you had couple of kids I used to go to Aitkenvale
and lived round the corner, their Dad used to be in the RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force], my Dad, army. The lady at the back of us, Mum actually met recently again, remembers all the days when all the carpet snakes trying to eat our guinea pigs in the back, and stuff like that. So it was pretty, like community area, the houses you used to live in were like dog boxes, but that’s normal for the army back then, it wasn’t a big budget, and everyone’s out. But most of all the kids used to play together sort of thing, it was like defence community. Not as good as it is
now obviously, there’s a lot more stuff for the wives and families and outings. But yeah, it’s always been pretty well garrison city here, especially with the typical, you always used to know the army blokes back then. Oh, when Dad met Mum he used to, two door Monaro, what do you expect, Mum used to drag off all the other mothers when we used to go to cricket matches. Everyone’d be fighting to try and get in the Monaro, so we’d take em to the matches, so. Yeah you remember back then, it’s still the same now.
Half the people in the army now, you see em come back from Timor, they’re all driving round in some hotted up car, but now it’s fast and the furious, it’s nothing to do with the old thumpin’ V8 bloody Monaro. So it’s pretty well always been a garrison city and I think it always will. Look at all the people that drive cabs and the majority around town, half of them are like ex bloody officers get out of the army and most of them stay in Townsville. They like the weather and they’re in Cairns, or they’re at Bowen, but they’re pretty well up and down the coast here. So
probably stay all the time where you just see em when they all come out of the wood works on Anzac Day.
And you were saying you remembered Graham taking you out to the barracks to watch TOETs?
Yeah we used to ride the push bike out and that, cause obviously Aitkenvale was obviously just across the Nathan Bridge there. We used to ride out there and Dad had to do lessons and stuff, obviously when he was teaching and courses and stuff. And we used to go out there and just for the ride, and I suppose, to get out of Mum’s hair. And so he’d take us out there and we just watch em do all their normal SLR [Self Loading Rifle] drills and... But Dad used to go up bush a lot more
back then, it’s a lot less now I suppose. They used to do bigger stints, like two months and stuff like that, so it’s a little bit different now, now they only do like weeks and stuff like that, but except for if they go to places like Timor and stuff, obviously it’s a lot longer.
So Graham was infantry as well?
Yeah, 2/4 at that stage, when it was called.
And what, was he, you said he was teaching lessons was he, so...?
Yeah he was helping out, lessons, instructing and stuff like that so yeah, he enjoyed that sort of stuff.
A lot of his, he joined the army I think basically just for the same thing, bit of adventure and that. But he enjoyed it but his career got cut a lot short obviously from injury, football injury, in the army playing AFL [Australian Football League] being from, he come from South Australia, around that way. Cause his old man used to be a radio technician, he used to work out of Woomera and places like that, so Dad cut his teeth out that way.
So, can you remember
what his reaction was when he had to get out of the army?
Dad’s? Very disappointed but you gotta, like everything, you gotta bite the bullet, he knew his knee was going, they were gonna turn around and put him down and instructional area and stuff and probably put him in another corps. And he just sort of said, “Well I’m not infantry I might as well get out and I’ll go somewhere else,” sort of thing, so he did. Even though he got out and got into the stores and that in mines and stuff, become a purchasing officer and stuff like that but he was making a lot more money. So you gotta go
where the, it is I suppose, especially money.
So you got to go out and have a look with him as well at the mines, when he first went out there?
Yeah, well that’s how I sort of got me jobs there and stuff. We went out and helped him with stock takes and things like that and started doing what we used to call ‘shit kickers’ [unwanted jobs]. Which is like on a lot of holidays, you go out there and do just odd jobs, help people, I don’t know, build fences for a rubbish dump, get a lot of dirt off conveyor belts that have fallen off and put em back on,
just really sort of jobs like that, they used to influence people I suppose. That no one really wanted, they were only short term and casual for like a six week period over the holidays and that. Used to go out there and get money in your hand so you could go blow it, buy a, blow it on your motor bike or go to Perth and go to the movies. So yeah, wasn’t bad.
So what sort of motor bike did you buy, your first bike?
Oh Jesus, way back then, Christ, me Mum got me, what’d I get, a D-R-200 way back then. And then before that we
basically rode around on me mate’s bike, he had Y-Z’s and a K-X I think it was that we used to ride in all the pony expresses and stuff. They were interesting, cause where Marvel Loch, Southern Cross was, it used to be the third best motor cross track in Australia at Southern Cross there. Used to be, used to get Jeff Lisk, I think his name was, lot of them back then they used to ride a lot of motor cross there. Cause they used, the town used to be packed
out, same sort of thing as like, I don’t know, you get like Tamworth has the musical, Southern Cross was like that with motor cross. And you have one a year and it was a big party, everything was booked out, you have bloody, where was it, I think it was Dale Bell and that. A lot of people riding for over seas and stuff like that, used to come over and it was a big event. Mines’d put a lot of money into fire works and you’d have bands and stuff so that, it was a pretty big
event at that stage over there.
So can you remember any other sort of outings that you used to do as a family?
Oh we used to go camping all the time, that was the main thing. Me and me old man we done a ride, the Gunbarrel Highway, he had an X-L-250, I was on me D-R-200 and we rode that up the Gunbarrel Highway and stuff, so I done that with my father. At that stage Adrian was a bit older and running round with the rest of his mates and Chris was a bit young, and that was after I got me license and stuff like that. But mostly yeah, we used to go for like,
after Christmas we used to go camping all the time. We used to go down to Hopetoun and places like that, down in West Australia, down near Esperance and stuff like that. And we’d go there for two weeks and camp, we’d take our grandma with us when she used to come over, cause she used to come over for the wild flower seasons and all that, so she could go round and look at all the wild flowers, which is a big attraction. So yeah, basically, we never really sat still, most holidays we’re off doing something. We used to drive, Dad had an old Hilux and like even on weekends
we used to go for trips to bloody, places like Frog Rock, Wave Rock down near oh, Hyden I think it’s called. But yeah basically, we’re pretty well, pretty adventurous, the whole family. Obviously when Adrian me older brother got a bit older, he didn’t want to come so he stayed home got into more mischief.
So what’d you think when you first got over to Western Australia, where exactly did you go over there?
Basically we got there, we went to Perth initially, cause Dad, a lot of his family are from Perth and that,
so that was fine there for a while. Then we went out to Southern Cross and we’re living in the caravan park there, so we got our, Mum and Dad bought a caravan. It rolled before we even got to Southern Cross, so went through that, cause one of his uncles was towing it and had one of those freak winds, roll over, so we’re in the caravan park for a while. Then Dad got his job out at Marvel Loch, then he moved through the system, got up, then we got a house in Southern Cross in a duplex there. And then from there Dad moved up again
in the job and then we went out to Marvel Loch to be a lot closer, cause it’s about forty ks [kilometres] roughly from Marvel Loch to Southern Cross. Southern Cross was where the school was that we’re at, district high school.
What do you remember of high school there?
Oh interesting, a lot of farmers kids there and stuff like that, all millionaires, most of them obviously. But yeah, it wasn’t too bad, usual growing up country town, everyone into everything. Loch, your
life rotated mainly around sports otherwise there was nothing else to do. So you played basketball, cricket, Aussie Rules, I played badminton, squash, between that and riding motor bikes.
And that was the first time you played Aussie Rules was it, when you went there?
Oh yeah, pretty well. When I first started, it was a little bit hard at times learning all these new rules about tackling, basketball was the same, like I never really played basketball until I got over there and that’s got about a billion
rules too. But it was good, it kept me occupied I suppose, and kept you out of mischief. It was enjoyable being in a country town, I actually enjoyed it, but cause there wasn’t much else to do.
It sounds like you liked your sports, did you like school as much, like the actual studying and stuff?
Yeah, oh Mum’s always said, I’ve always found school a little bit harder than most people, I’ve passed pretty well everything. School, yeah I enjoyed cause you had your mates there, I liked learning things, I was more into the maths and science
area. But yeah, like anything, you have to do school, I enjoyed it. Oh, like I said, I went to year eleven for about six months at Merredin, I went there for a while but then I thought, “Nah,” cause I was thinking of going there and doing me year eleven and twelve and then looking at becoming either an officer or that, and then I thought, “Nah, doesn’t interest me at this stage, point in time.” And then I tried TAFE, I went there and I done surveying for about six months to a year, then after that I said, “Nah, I’ll just join the
army.” Like after we come back and that, then I thought, “Oh, I’ll wait a little bit longer,” got in the reserves, so I’ve tried a bit of everything.
So you reckon the army was always in the back of the mind somewhere?
Yeah, oh just, it had a bit of everything sort of thing, it wasn’t a monotonous job I suppose. You’re doing things interest, you got to fire a rifle, you got to go in a helicopter, you got to play with tanks, APCs [Armoured Personnel Carriers], boats, LCMs [Landing Craft Mechanised]. And pretty well also you can get in and
do a lot more adventurous stuff at that stage. You got to play with more equipment and nearly every two years you could do a course and you got to play with the radios. So it was a little bit different than just sitting there in the mines, I suppose just doing the same monotonous job. Even though it was better money in the mines, well, I was looking more for the adventure and not so much the pay.
So at school you hadn’t really sort of set your mind on exactly
what you wanted to do?
No I pretty well had, that was my basic plan, it was just how far up the food chain I sort of wanted to go. Obviously if I went to year eleven and twelve I’d probably be, become an officer or looked at something a little bit higher, but then after being in the army and that I appreciated I didn’t go that far I suppose.
How much did Graham encourage you to join the army?
Not really, he said, “You make your own choices.” He said, “Well if you’re gonna bounce around, you’re enjoy it, you like your sports, you like that sort of stuff,
then it’s not a bad thing.” But at no stage did he say, “Oh you gotta do it, it’s family tradition,” or anything like that. He just said, “Do what you wanna do.” But he was happy I suppose when I decided to enlist and all that sort of stuff.
Had you ever gotten sick of the whole bouncing around life or did you enjoy it?
No, change colour, like a hair cut I suppose. Sitting around all the time, it’s like everything I suppose, you just sort’a, don’t say the word in this day and age, ‘bored.” But yeah, you get to the stage where I suppose, every day you go, oh Jesus that’d be
interesting doing something else. Even find to today is, you sort’a like seeing other things, touching things. I’m, I’m not much, I read books, I’m not much of a book reader, but if I go to the beach, like a lot of other people, I’d rather play in the waves, not that we got many up here, when we get a storm we get some. But I’d prefer to play in the waves and that, than sit there and read a book sort of thing. And same with, I’ve been around Tasmania, to read about it’s interesting but to feel it and touch things is a lot more different, you get,
you get the better aspects of it and you feel, like, the atmosphere, as they say.
Do you think that life style of bouncing around actually gave you that thirst for adventure and for doing things and seeing things?
Yeah, probably would’ve, cause you sort of got out of Townsville or out of that area, and you go, “Oh well,” and then we went like Wave Rock, and we went camping and we drove around, climbed Ayres Rock. Pretty well been everywhere over Australia, like Coober Pedy, went to the underground, what else? Like I said, climbed Ayres Rock,
bloody Darwin, oh pretty well everything. The only place at that stage I hadn’t been in the last couple of years that I went sort of thing, I took me wife and me two kids, we went two weeks around Tasmania and sort of explored that. So I pretty well been to most places around Australia and stuff like that, and enjoyed it.
And you mentioned at primary school you got into trouble a fair bit, how’d you go at high school?
Oh high school, yeah, mellowed out a bit too much but, I don’t know, being the class room clown,
stirrer or whatever, so I got in trouble a little bit, but done all my work, got by, but mainly schooling’s cause of all the blokes I suppose. And learning new stuff, was interesting learning, especially in the maths and science side. And then got in splay, like playing a lot more sports and then obviously getting a taste here and there doing odd jobs on the holidays, going, “God that work force, don’t want to do that.’
How big was high school?
Oh Jeez, wasn’t very big, wouldn’t have been a lot, I can’t remember the exact numbers
but only went up to, I think it was year nine, year ten and then you had to go either to Perth or Merredin, to like a hostel sort of thing there, schooling, local sort of school. But yeah, it didn’t have a mass amount of numbers, cause Southern Cross wasn’t very big at all. Like, oh, I couldn’t even put a number on it, cause I’d only be guessing and that, but yeah it was very small compared to Townsville and places like that, like a country hick town.
So was it the same sort of things you could do sort of outside of school hours there as what you could do here?
Oh you get a lot more sort’a here. There you had to make your sort of adventures like playing on the salt pans and riding your motor bikes on the salt pans. Going for walks, playing in mine shafts, which me Mum didn’t like that much. I don’t know, trying to catch pigeons, what else, making like old
dune buggy cars, motor bike tracks, going camping. What else, you just had to make your sort of, your own adventure, in a sense, like just going bush walking and stuff, and sitting out in the rain and stuff like that, and mountain bike riding. But in Townsville I suppose it’s all, it’s there. We used to go to Perth on trips and that, me Mum’s done a few trips where she went, “Oh I feel like pizza, so we drove all the way to Perth,” about five hundred ks
away. So that was very, like, interesting, I suppose that’s where we got that adventurous blood from as well.
Yeah, driving five hundred ks to get a pizza, that’s pretty adventurous. So, how often, besides going into Perth for an adventure, did you have to do regular trips somewhere to get supplies and things or was it..?
Oh no we had the shops there, but a lot of times if you wanted to get into the more clothing and a little bit more obviously selection,
you had to go to Perth and stuff for like monthly trips and stuff like that. Plus Dad’s relatives are down there so used to go there for Christmases and like, birthday parties and stuff like that. But yeah, basically you had your stuff you could survive on and stuff, and being like a mine town and all that, so a lot of stuff that’s pretty expensive. So now and then if you wanted more luxury items used to go to Merredin or Perth or anything like that and pick the stuff up there on your monthly or two weekly trip.
That way obviously it didn’t cost you as much and you got out of sort of town a bit.
Cause, would they have had rail out there to the mines?
Yeah, oh yeah they had the rail. The rail basically didn’t go to the mine, they shipped a lot of stuff, trucks, and went into their crushers and that and from there. Most of the actual rail was just more communal stuff. Like out of Bullfinch and places like that, where they got shut down and stuff like that. But cause basically all the stuff in the gold mines out there is just break it up, put it in the crusher, goes
through your mill, gets it out, then you pour it and you make your gold. And then it goes into the gold room and then the gold gets shipped out, so it’s not like you need, it’s not like coal or something where you need (bookier... UNCLEAR) amounts or train or something to ship it all. Just need to move all your gold.
Did they ever run a passenger line out there on the rail line or not?
Oh not out to Marvel Loch, Southern Cross it did, you can get basic, the rail that goes all the way through to Adelaide, is there, and it sort of goes out to Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, places like that, sort
of stuff, they’re old mining towns from way back. Southern Cross, about another two hundred ks heading towards Perth.
Interviewee: Dale Thompson Archive ID 1679 Tape 02
You briefly touched on saying that you and your friends and brothers used to go and play in mine shafts?
Yeah, oh in West Australia it was littered full of ’em, bloody everywhere, old mine shafts from years ago. We used to go, just an adventure, a lot of times used to chase the pigeons down there and stuff, use sling shots and stuff like that, obviously the RSPCA [Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] wouldn’t like it but that was life back then. But the place was littered with, full of it and it’s full of adventures and stuff like that.
Just everywhere, old ones and that, used to have jumps that your motorbikes used to go over and that, lot of em were pretty deep and that, no one filled em all in, stuff like that. Some still had the old stairways sort of thing that you used to go down the same as like a spiral effect that you used to go. Lot of old open cuts there you used to go down and play in and stuff like that. But being sort of that whole area there was farms or mine and basically bloody, if there wasn’t a farm there, there was mines there. But yeah, wasn’t too bad,
you used to, I suppose use a bit of common sense back then, especially with all your friends and that.
What were the rules, what was the common sense?
Common sense. Obviously if you thought it was dangerous, you didn’t go down there. But obviously kids at that stage like, you’d test it or whatever, throw things at it, make sure it wasn’t breakable and you have a look around, and if there was any, you let someone else go down first. But most of the time that was it, you just used your normal kids bloody common sense I suppose, you just, it goes a
little bit far or not enough far, stuff like that, but yeah.
I’ve never been into a mine shaft, what does it actually look like?
Oh it depends on which one you’re after. You get some open cut ones that are just basically you go down into like a big open cut and then they got holes in the wall, so it’s just like big caves and that. Or you got the natural one which used to have like an old shelter over the top and it’s just like a spiral, going down, like a stairway going to a platform, stairway, and where they basically go down just edging all the way down. Same as like, places like Coober
Pedy where they just dig holes everywhere and people fall down every year. So it depends on what you’re there, but mostly over that way was more open cut where they’d just get in with a heap of bloody bulldozers and truck and dig it all up, put it in the truck, go to the mills, put it through the mills, obviously in the old days and they crush it all up, leech it out or whatever in your big stock piles. Then put it through and obviously sort out your gold, melt it down and make it into bricks and obviously that’s where they make the money.
And so there was
easy access for you kids to get into?
Oh fences, no they fell down a hundred years ago, definitely. No, they used to have fences I think there and stuff and warning signs but I think they vanished a couple of generations ago. I don’t think the government or anyone worries about it too much, probably still there today. But it’s just common knowledge basically there and everyone knows you used to play around on, and stuff like that.
And what sort of games did you get up to in there?
Games in there? Oh not so much games, mostly we were
chasing pigeons with our sling shots and stuff like that, just normal adventurous kids I suppose, thinking you’re back in the old days or something, in a cave and stuff like that, so normal kids stuff I suppose. Hiding from your brothers and hiding from your mates, having sling shot wars, try not to lose an eye, so you run around with goggles and a helmet on.
Were they home made sling shots?
Yeah most of ’em were, you make em with a bloody, leather tongue out of your boot,
you just cut the top off that put the boot lace in, tie a knot a both ends, get your football bladder and you basically just get a ruler and divide it down into like four or five even things and then you just make a loop at the end of your boot lace, put it in, there’s your sling shot. The old one, bloody at that stage and that was it, and you just put your rock in your pouch and as you, there’s an actual technique to it, cause amount of times you get a sore thumb if you don’t do it right and stuff like that. But in the end you come fairly accurate with it.
What’s the technique?
just obviously the cocking of the wrist at the end, cause if you’re just gonna let it go, it’s just gonna hit straight into your hand, and obviously you learn that after the first three or four times and a few indents in your knuckles. But yeah, it was pretty accurate, we used to get a fair few pigeons with it, obviously normal kids at that age, smashing bottles and tin cans and pretty well shooting anything else that happened.
What did mum think of you cutting up your shoes and stuff to make sling shots?
Oh used to use the old ones, and Dad used to have an old leather ones, they make better pouches, especially
the work boots and all that. Obviously you go down to all the old ones and that. But yeah, and then foot of, football bladder I think was about five or six bucks back then, and used to go buy em brand new cause the rubber was pretty good. It’s got a lot more elasticity than the old, used to use bike tube ones, they weren’t as good, these ones were a lot better, so, and they were a lot more robust compared to the old fork one and that. Like people go pay top dollar for the ones with all the gidgee rubber and that, we used to make
ours like that and still do the same job. Used to hang around with one of me Aboriginal mates and stuff, and he used to take us out and stuff, and we used to go out and just go round like the old cemeteries and that, chase goannas and just normal adventurous stuff that kids I suppose did at that stage. Keep your mind occupied to keep you out of mischief, even though you’re into mischief to keep it out of. But yeah, that’s what we used to sort’a get up to, that stuff.
Tell me about chasing goannas?
Well me mate,
Dion, he obviously had Aboriginal in him and all that and we were pretty good friends at school and that, and we used to just go out and he’d show me all these bloody race horse goannas in those days, and stuff like that. And he showed me where they lived and stuff like that. And we had a couple run at us and that and he just says, “Basically you just hit the dirt like that, cause if you stand up, they run up you like a tree and claw you to death.” So basically we just, stuff like that, and then we’d just make things, like he’d show us how to make like spears, and we used
to make some bow and arrows and stuff out of the wood. And we used to just wander around basically like a big adventure thinking that you’re a bloody, I don’t know, in some sort of dungeon and dragon movie in those days I suppose. And that was out entertainment, we, well videos I think were only big thing then and we only just got a video I think, after that, there was no movie theatres out there. After school, get in, sit down watch a video or anything like that, that was mainly a once off affair basically. Mum said,
“Go out and play.” So you’re either on your push bike riding down to the local pool, going for a swim, or you’re over the pipe line, heading out into the bush, making cubby houses. Wander around tracking down goannas or going on some big bush epic, which it used to be back then I suppose. As a teenager, that’s what used to go, “Oh yeah, we’ll go out on an adventure,” sounds childish but at that stage it was very enjoyable I suppose. You got to do a lot of things you didn’t do sort of thing, you
feel like you’re out there all alone, and enjoying yourself.
The goanna’s that you mentioned, you said they were, what sort did you say...?
Like race horse, that’s what they used to call em then. I don’t know the technical name behind em but they’re fairly large size goannas with real sharp claws, and they usually bury themselves in the, like a hole and that. They climb trees and stuff like that. Pretty fast, I tell you that now. I had a couple chase us and get, chased a couple. So yeah, just in general, making
your own, like we didn’t chase snakes or anything like that, we weren’t that cluey [smart] at that stage I suppose. Then we looked at, trying to think what they’re called, shonky apple trees I think they were called over there, which his Mum used to make into pies and stuff like that, which were just trees out in the middle of the bush and that. And we used to collect some and take em back for his Mum, and she, it had a real big seed in it and stuff and she used to make pies out of it and jam and stuff. So little bit of bush craft I suppose you learned back then, which was
Your friend Dion that you said was Aboriginal, was there ever any kind of issue with that?
Nah, just two kids running round. He had dark skin, I had white skin, we didn’t care, we’re too busy worry about having adventures and running around, like never an issue. His old man used to work on the railway, we used to play cricket together, basically I suppose we’re both more adventurous. A lot of the other kids, they, we used to play obviously the sports together and all that sort of
stuff, so from there, yeah. And then he moved on when his parents moved away, and then had another bloke I used to play basketball with and all that, Aaron. I still keep in contact with him now and then, I haven’t heard from Dion in ages. Oh I’ve been back a couple of times to see a lot of me old mates, since being in the army. A lot of them have gone up high through the structure and stuff like that, like uni [university], and all of em are out and stuff like that and become high up in certain areas and stuff like that.
But and then there’s a few that are still sitting round the same town doing nothing, so, but compared to most of their stories I think my life’s been pretty adventurous compared to theirs, theirs has been pretty null and void I suppose or monotonous or boring, so.
What was the age difference between you and your brothers?
Two years, two years older, two years younger, there’s Adrian and Chris. So basically, it was pretty good, Adrian in the wrong group I suppose, he bloody, he, all his friends always trying to
beat us up and normal sort of stuff like that, and trying to drown us in the pool and yeah, normal brotherly love with all your friends, that’s how you get attention I suppose and that. So yeah and then Chris, he’d, being two years younger and stuff like that, and he had his friends obviously. But most of the time we used to play pretty well good together, cause we used to obviously go camping for two, three weeks and stuff like that together, so you had to learn to get along, otherwise you’d bloody be pretty, by yourself. So we used to go out on our normal own adventures and stuff.
We had heaps of stuff, like one time we’re at a cubby out in the middle of the thing and we bloody lit a fire anyway and Chris and that, and we said, “Oh go back and put the fire out.” So Chris goes back and puts all this bloody leaves and stuff on it. Next minute we’re going, Jeez that smells like smoke and we get back and half the friggin bush is alight and bloody Chris is going, “I think we better get of here, the bush is on fire.” Then from there we heard a couple of the, I think it was the local property dude from next door, he come racing across with these friggin hand built bloody firey [fire engine]
thing trying to put the thing out. And we just bolted as we normally do and get home and say nothing, so we try not, try to keep out of trouble. They got it under control but normal kids getting into mischief I suppose.
So did you guys ever used to fight?
Fight? Oh normal brothers fight yeah.
What’s a normal brother’s fight?
I don’t know, getting in trouble, get a punch in the nose. Keep it up, don’t bother me and my friends, throw something at you, just normal stuff I suppose. But most of the time we were pretty good,
I think, if anything, probably a handful of fights in our whole life, I suppose. Pretty well, we were pretty close sort of thing, still pretty close now. I got, Chris, like I said, still in the army, Adrian lives in Townsville too and works for the railway, so we’re all still pretty close, we still ring up each other now and then, do odd favours for each other.
Did you guys, when you were growing up, have your own bedrooms or did you share?
Oh shared. Basically being three boys and that, but most of the time
it was either, at one stage I think Adrian got, when he got older, obviously he was more on his own then it was mainly me and Chris. So yeah we shared mostly everything, the normal rivalry stuff and the line in the, like the sand as you’re saying, that’s my side of the room and this is your side of the room and yeah, so we enjoyed stuff like that. And like then obviously in Marvel Loch and Southern Cross Mum’d make friends with a lot of people. I run into a bloke I went to school there, that we actually, I joined the army with him in Townsville here.
I didn’t see him for about five or six years, then I run into him when I joined the army, Rubbaczech, unusual name, you never pick that one out. And we used to go to a lot of farms and stuff like that, when Mum and Dad had friends and that, we used to hang around with their children and ride motor bikes and go out chasing kangaroos, and bloody rabbits. Go to places like Koolyanobbing on camping trips with the school and stuff, Leonora, we used to go up there on a big
excursion with the school, and Leonora’s the middle of nowhere with nothing. Basically rocks, kangaroos, more rocks and kangaroos, and a pack of mine vehicles driving past at a hundred miles an hour. So then we went to places like Kalbarri I suppose, went to all the gorges up there with the school. It was pretty well they just, I think they took us into the outdoors to keep your mind occupied, so you didn’t get into too much mischief. But it wasn’t too hard cause you’re pretty well enjoying it.
Like we seen snakes, all that sort of stuff, but we don’t seem to have, had that so much fear of it now as some of the children I suppose now, cause they live more urbanised I suppose. Like I don’t like snakes or spiders like anyone else, but like you see one, you just let it go by and that, where a lot of people have more pretence they think of killing it cause it’s invading their area and stuff.
Do you know how your mum and dad met?
Oh God they don’t tell me that sort of stuff, probably drunk somewhere in some night club, running round doing floozie [girl].
As far as I know, I assume Mum met Dad at some local night club in Townsville years ago. Obviously Dad being in the army back then as we say, back then. And obviously Mum, being single then, we were at home with grandma getting obviously baby-sat. And they met up and they had a few dates and then in the end obviously they got together and they got married and we moved in.
Do you remember them getting married?
Yeah, got, I remember the photos and stuff like that and all
us there dressed looking like dorks. Mum dressing us in like in those ’60s outfits and stuff like that.
What were you dressed up in?
Oh really daggy [uncool], like Hawaii Five-0 [American television program] sort of crap, I tell you, you don’t want to friggin tell you about that stuff. I even got school photos Mum sent me to bloody school, everyone else had uniform on, obviously cause we weren’t loaded full of money then and bare as arse . And here’s everyone else in uniform and I’m wearing something like Hawaii Five-0 shirt and that, no shoes, bare foot. So,
yeah, but oh, they made me who I am I suppose, but gotta remember Mum had nothing then, she had to make something of something. And obviously marrying Dad, wasn’t as easy then cause the army was not that great of a pay, Dad had to sell his Monaro and all that sort of stuff. Then we moved into a, sort’a smaller car, got a Datsun 200B then, that was a doozie [good] of a car, shouldn’t have got rid of that, that done about I think five trips of the Nullarbor, like West Australia and back, so don’t knock the old
Dato [Datsun], she done well. Yeah, remember bits, a lot of, like on and off, I suppose you remember certain things that, whatever are sort of apparent to you.
Were you guys, like you and your brothers part of the wedding?
Yeah, basically just bloody ‘hanger-oners’ more than anything, yeah, here’s the three boys, we’re just hanging around, so we weren’t like anything fantastic, we’re just basically there for the wedding. And like cause
obviously Mum’s brothers, my uncles, they were all there, best man and stuff like that. Dad, I think had his, his best man from the army, but the rest I think were all Mum’s brothers that were there, James and John, so.
Your dad being in the army obviously had a bit of influence on you as you were growing up, did your mum work?
Mum? Yeah, she worked on and off, mainly, stages there she used to iron for people and stuff like that cause obviously Dad being away,
three boys, you can’t really jump around. Mum used to work at hotels, cause she used to come from a place called Maxwelton, used to be out there where her Mum and Dad used to live, Ted, and they, he used to work on the railway and stuff like that. And bloody, he used to be away for ages and gran had oh, I have to remember now, I think it’s seven, eight, nine, somewhere around that many kids, so she was pretty happy with those days. And then Mum
worked there in the post office, then behind the bar, then obviously, bloody, then from there, that was when she was like fifteen and stuff. She talks about days she used to drive around the lady down from gran, she used to drive around in an old car, she was still only fifteen. All the police used to know she had no license and that, but she could drive and all that, cause she used to be driving for years. And they used to let her go by cause she used to drive the old lady to the shops, get her groceries and that and drive her home. So yeah, Mum’s had jobs on and
off, but when she met Dad she more home duties and stuff like that. She used to bloody do ironing for a lot of other like men and that, stuff like that, to get extra cash. And but basically, obviously Dad being the bread winner there, she was more at home concentrating on raising us, disciplining us more than anything I think.
Did the family have anything to do with church or religion?
Oh I’ve been to Sunday School, I’ve been to all that sort of stuff, I’ve been to Jehovah Witness centres, I’ve been
to the lot. I think my Mum went through some spiritual outpour, but yes I’ve been to most of em, I’ve been to Sunday School and all that, they never pressured us. One of our next door neighbour, he was a chaplain in the army and stuff so we used to play with his kids and stuff like that. So we mainly went along, I think it was more for a communal thing and so Mum could get along when Dad was away a lot. So we done that sort of stuff but we’ve never really been big religious people but yeah, we’ve
been to church and stuff like that.
Did you say, what church was it, Jehovah’s Witness did you say?
No, no, no, we’ve been through all that but yeah it was the main church out at Lavarack, the one that’s still there. Don’t ask me to recall, I think its Roman Catholic, I believe so. But yeah, but me Mum went through and we’ve been to Jehovah Witness’s churches and just hear what they have to say and Mum went along so we all got dragged along and stuff like that. So I’ve been to a fair bit and had a look and heard what other people,
and their opinions on life and stuff.
As a kid, like through, sort of say, from the age of say, from as early as you can remember, till the end of high school, what, are there any like world events or current affairs things that you remember standing out for you?
High school and stuff, ‘hooley dooley’. Nah, I don’t think, I suppose at that age, I don’t think a lot of people, there wasn’t a big note of
anything. Sort of stuff back then was you were young and your world rotated around you. It’s not as big I suppose as people like back in probably World War I or World War II where it was a lot bigger thing in the paper. It was pretty null and void there, I suppose when I was, cause I was born ’71 so that was basically Vietnam sort of era and that, but by the time I was there, there was no real major conflicts for another twenty odd years until we went to Somalia. Like there was a few ones
here and there but no major ones, so there was no like big world events or anything like that, except for I suppose people were getting married, like bloody Princess Diana and all that sort of stuff.
What do you remember about that?
Oh just her getting married and a big shindig [party], Charles walking around with big flappy ears. And a dress that was way too long, but besides that, nah I can’t remember much of that. Like I said, it more rotated, I was too busy into sports and running
around the outback to worry about watching a lot of TV [television]. Like, I barely watched TV back then. I think by the time I woke up and had breakfast, I was out the door. Mum’d be going, “Where you gone?” “See ya later.” “Be back for lunch,” or “back for tea,” and that was it. She wouldn’t see me on some weekends, I’d just go, she’d know I’d be safe, cause just look after yourself. And if someone was come and tell her, they’ll come and tell her, so basically that and we hanging around with a lot of group of good bloody blokes, so we kept out of most riff raff. She knew if I was out there doing an adventure, I wouldn’t be in
town trying to steal something or getting into mischief like some of the other kids did. So a lot of the world news wasn’t a big thing cause I didn’t watch a lot, I didn’t read a lot of newspapers. Wasn’t until like, I suppose I got here and got in the army that more world news, cause that was ’91, you’re talking Gulf War and stuff, the first, so that was around that era.
What about in family live, do you remember things standing out, you know, like the first time that you got something, like
I remember as a kid, like I clearly remember the first time we got a colour TV?
Oh I remember a video blowing up one night, we had an electrical storm in Aitkenvale, street there, it just spat the tape out at us and that. We were watching this video and a bloody lightening hit the bloody, I think it was the roof, or whatever it was around it, and the whole thing just spat the tape out. I remember getting one of me first push bikes, I had one of those old second hand chopper ones with the big chopper wheels with the gears in the middle.
Yeah, one of those with the big like girlie bar at the back with the long seat and stuff like that, yeah. And I went over one of the first jumps, I still got a scar down me leg from that, where the gear went ‘crrrk’, cut all the inside of me leg, so that’s how come I remember that pretty well from all the injuries I copped off it. But yeah, I remember that era, and me brother getting his first bike and going to Pimlico High School and getting it knocked off the second day after Mum spent all that money on it. A Malvern Star I think it was back then,
real flash. What else? Slippery dips in the back yard, and the old man got us a slippery dip, and we’re flying down this slippery dip, and then Dad goes, “Oh I’ll have a go.” Ripped down this thing and he didn’t clear it properly, and there must have been like a rock or something and went ‘phht’, straight down his back, so he was in pain and agony for a while, big tough army bloke he was. But it fairly ripped into him and that, cause I don’t think it was made for his weight.
Just for posterity, cause this will be around for the next hundred years or so, can you describe what
the slippery dip was like?
Oh basically just like a bit of plastic on the ground and you plug your, you gotta plug in the hose in the end and a bit of water sprinkles over the top of it, and you run down and slide on it. And you run down and you go on your belly or on your back until you get to the end and you hit the grass and get grass rash at the same time. That was the slippery dip back then, it was nothing fancier than that. But yeah, I remember little bits here and there, like the blokes next door’s house burning down, and we were all out
there trying to fight it with garden hoses, this is when we were at Leopold Street. And you could smell all these things burning and it was the lady’s next door, she used to collect all those smurfs [toy cartoon characters], and they all got melted. They didn’t tell us that the bloke there at that stage had something, I think it was a couple of kilos [kilograms] of gun powder in his roof and that, he got in trouble for that. We’re all out there fighting it with a fire, like a bloody garden hose and all that and we didn’t know we could all have been blown up and stuff. So yeah, little things like that, but not a lot to do with like world news or anything like that.
you know, in our lifetimes we’ve had a lot greater technological advances than...?
What technological advances do you remember being a big deal?
Probably computers I suppose when I was at Southern Cross District High School over at Southern Cross there in Western Australia, and they had one of the first computers that was I suppose, that was in our library there. The only problem is there was only two buttons on it was used and that was for Space Invaders [video game]. Used to be in there going beep, beep, beep, beep, firing away, and I think that’s the only time I seen
kids use it, they didn’t use it for any educational. And you go to school today and Christ, you got something like ten or fifteen computers in one room. And we had one in the library and you couldn’t get on to do any research anyway cause no technology then. They used to have, what was it, the old Commodore-64’s and stuff and you used to put your cartridge in it and all that, and you had to type your programs in back then, same as like your computer program, compared to like now you got disks and stuff. You type it all in and you spend like four hours or something typing this thing in, just to get this little man
to run across the screen and stuff like that, so it advanced a fair bit. And you got microwaves, oh just stuff like I suppose that, like little radio cassette players, you can get your big ghetto blaster, push bikes, they come out with all these flash mountain bikes and gears and click shifts and so, yeah, stuff like that I suppose. And you got cameras, cause I used to be a fair bit into photography back then, you used to have your SLRs [Single Lens Reflex] and stuff, used to do at school and that. Now like, God what have you got now,
digital cameras and stuff like that.
What about toys that were a stand out when you were growing up?
Toys, ooh, mainly army men I think I had, and I used to have Transformers [toy].
Can you describe what Transformers are?
Oh Transformers are basically, they come out, it was a toy, they basically, they were, come out as either a car or something, they used to transform into a, like a robot,
and it was an actual serial on TV and that. And Mum used to buy us the Transformers, I used to have all most of those sort of stuff, and used to play around with them or used to play with the army blokes under the thing, watch them all have parachutes. Normal kids stuff I suppose for back then, you used to have your bow and arrows, your Indians, your cowboys. Then it went, obviously when with Dad and that and you started to get into all your M-16 [machine gun] army toys and bloody army men and marbles, I remember playing
marbles. I was a bit of a marble guru meself, used to win a few marbles when I used to go to Aitkenvale and stuff. We planted a tree at Aitkenvale there for me cricket, I think I still got a photo somewhere in the newspaper, should be still at Aitkenvale there with a plaque on it there, if it hasn’t been kicked off. Playing lunge ball, used to be a game we used to enhance our skills when we used to play cricket. Used to have just like a big brick wall
and you just, you have a line on it and you have to throw the ball above the line and you’d have two set courts, sort of like squash, half and half. And you either catch it on the full, you can move up and throw it as hard as you want at the line, or you could catch it on the bounce with one hand and you had to throw from where you catch it. And it was designed basically, one of the teachers there sort of got it going, it was to increase your reflexes for slip catching and stuff like that. And then obviously when you got better you went from tennis ball and you used to use a cricket ball, so we sort of played that sort of game for a while to
improve our cricket. But yeah, in toys and that, I don’t remember much of that either. Had to make me own I think, run around, pull a tree down, make me own cubby house, I used to be into making a lot of cubbies and used to make a lot of cubbies out of scrap. Mum used to barely throw anything away so if there was an old cupboard, door or anything like that, or chicken wire or something I could make that into a cubby house in a tree, somewhere. I think Mum always thought I was gonna fall out of a tree eventually.
The amount of stuff I used to have up there, make shift, I was always trying to find a hide away somewhere.
When you were playing Cowboys and Indians, I’m curious to know if you had, like what paraphernalia you had?
Oh used to just, a lot of times it was mainly only sticks and like, cause lotta, didn’t have a lot of money, with Mum being single and all that. With three boys, eating like horses as she says that we do, we all looked like sticks and then we ate like horses. And yeah but
most of the stuff, you make your own bow and arrow you could, just stick and bloody, put a bit of rope on it, and a lot of times it was sort of a stick. It wasn’t, I suppose a little bit later on that you got the old plastic gun and the plastic bow and arrow with the little sucker on the end that you used to shoot at each others forehead.
What were the big TV shows?
TV shows, oh the big ones I remember back in my childhood, the biggest influence was Doctor Who, The Goodies, “Anywhere, any time,”
Oh you go into a lot of the little cartoons back then, I can’t even remember much of them but it was mainly, cause we didn’t watch much in the morning, cause obviously had to get ready for school but the afternoons was usually, the big ones I remember is more into your Doctor Who and your Goodies.
What about music?
Music, no, didn’t listen to much music until I got into me teens I suppose, then I listened to, more into that sort of, cause of Dad
he had all the old Eagles [Rock Band] and George Thorogood [rock’n roll and blues singer] and all that sort of stuff and I got a little bit like, older and stuff and that’s all he had was in the old records. Didn’t have any CDs [compact disc] or anything back then. So basically if you wanted to, you put that sort of stuff on. Then me older brother sort of got into all the heavy metal, he was into AC/DC [rock band], bloody Motorhead, Metallica, what else, oh, all that sort of stuff. He was into that, I was more into the stuff I suppose Dad was after,
he used to play Kenny Rogers [country singer]. Mum was into, she was watching stuff like Doris Day and Dolly Parton [entertainers] and things like that, so I didn’t listen to that much. But yeah, more into Dad’s music I suppose, I was more inclined to that, because it was more easy going, you could hear the music. It wasn’t like Motorhead where I think it was more head banging than anything going on. Yeah, that was, that would’ve been more in my teens but as a younger kid, nah, mainly
theme songs like Doctor Who and, which made a big hit a couple of years later, they made millions on the bloody thing.
Do you remember the first record you ever got?
Oh record? If anything I would’ve bought a first cassette, I wouldn’t have got a record, nah, I would’ve got a record, might’ve been the Chipmunks or something. I’m not sure, but me first, I think me first tape I got, I actually bought. God, it would’ve been, I think it was just
a mixture anyway, it was like, ‘Pop ’80’ or some bloody thing like that, just all the latest hits or stuff like that, would have been about that era and stuff. I remember going to when I went to year eleven at Merredin at school there and we used to have the hostel, and they used to play that bloody Run to Paradise and that by bloody, who played that?
Choir Boys I think?
Yeah, Choir Boys, I was gonna say. And in the end we had to throw all the tapes out the
window cause one bloke was playing it and one end and someone was playing it at the other end and oh, that’s all you heard for the whole time, so we had to burn that stuff. And the only other music after that was The Doors when I was going through Singleton, we had a bloke that played The Doors non stop and we had to ban him from the juke box, cause every time he put The Doors on, so we had to burn his tape too. Oh, actually we didn’t burn his, we took it off him, we said, “When you leave Singleton we’ll give em back to you.” So yeah, stuff like that. But the music I
listen to now is pretty well stuff I suppose I first, like AC/DC, Angels, Eagles, Rolling Stones, oh bloody, all that sort of era, I still listen to, Kenny Rogers, Jimmy Barnes, Choir Boys, Queen. They say Freddie Mercury’s got the best voice, I don’t know.
What about in all of your schooling years, primary school and high school, are there any teachers
that really stood out as a big influence on you?
Oh yeah I had, I can’t remember a lot of their names, I had a couple of the teachers here at, when I was going to Aitkenvale, mainly cause one was into the cricket and that, at that stage. Cause I had a lot of problems with me spelling and then he used to make me, if I couldn’t get nine or eight out of ten in spelling I couldn’t go play cricket, so that was a crime for me, so I had to do a lot more in my spelling. I had another teacher there, I don’t know whether he still exists any more,
he used to pin us on the back of the door a few times, or try and pull our ears off, one or the other.
How’d he used to pin you on the door?
Oh just pick you up by your shoulders and pin you on the hook from behind with your shirt. Oh yeah. Kids today worry about getting brutalised, I thought a lot of times, a lot of times we deserved it. What else? Had a teacher over in West Australia, he wasn’t too bad, had him for a while, he used to be pretty good, he’d go, “Oh you either wanna
learn or you don’t. If you don’t, go outside and sit down and read a comic.” And obviously not many people went outside and if they did they only lasted for a day anyway, cause by that time their parents found out, got in trouble. But yeah and then I had a science teacher, Lexie Thompson, they used to call her Sexy Lexie. Another teacher, I can’t think of his name, right now he’s, he was an actual British bloke from England anyway and he wasn’t a bad teacher, he was an English teacher, very into like literature
and stuff like that. And yeah he taught me a lot I suppose in that sort of sense. He, “Don’t be afraid to express the way you want to express, if you don’t feel confident in it,” and stuff like that. But a lot of the teachers back then, but not a great amount of teachers, we used to, most of them the normal thing I suppose at that age, you didn’t really appreciate teachers too much cause they made you sit down and do homework, stuff like that, so we didn’t give em any teacher awards of the year or anything.
Who were your childhood heroes?
Childhood heroes? That’d be The Goodies and Doctor Who. Back then, pretty well all those sort of heroes, oh crikey, you got superman, you got, oh what else was there, Transformers, like I used to like them, what
else? Lot of em were like watching Anzac Days, used to see a lot of the old war heroes and stuff, then me Dad’s Dad, and stuff like that. I suppose you look back, for more that, you appreciated what they done and what they sacrificed I suppose, and then you appreciated that this is your way of life because of that, and things like that I suppose they were pretty well up there in the top. Then you got all your sports heroes, I suppose being more influenced in sport as well. So you got your D.K. Lillee’s and your Marsh,
your Chappell’s, Trevor, Ian and bloody, yeah, lot of cricket. Viv Richards [West Indies cricketer], a fair bit in cricket obviously cause of cricket and that, I didn’t really get into basketball or football until later on but a lot more was cricket orientated than anything.
So when, like those, you know, your Lillee’s and your Chappell’s and Marsh’s when they were your heroes , what was it about them that you really looked up to?
Oh just aspired the way they, I suppose they acted and stuff like
that, in that area. They tried to get to the top of what they were good at, but they weren’t like, I don’t know, over the top, they weren’t like, “Oh I’m the best,” and stuff like that. They just did their job and they went back, sort’a done the job they had to do, have a beer, have a rest and that was about it sort of thing, and got on with their daily life. Cause a lot of sports heroes weren’t as professional as they are now, like D.K. Lillee and all that, I think he was still like washing cars at car joints and they all still had second jobs. So like cricket was a
passion to em back then, it’s not like now where it’s a job. Where a lot of the sports players now they’re, I don’t know, I think they’ve taken the passion out of sport. Back then they were very passionate players, like D.K. Lillee’d bowl with a broken back, things like that, just out of pure passion, I suppose that was probably the biggest influence on it. I suppose that goes back to like, a lot of your, like World War Is and World War IIs and that influence I suppose, cause a lot of em were more passionate for what they were doing. They were doing
it cause they wanted to earn any money, they didn’t want to do it to be glorified, anything like that, it was more of they’re doing it because, they sort of wanted to do it, they wanted to be there, they wanted to put their five bob in instead of sitting back sort of expressing things about stuff, they wanted to get in and get their hands dirty sort of thing.
So when you were following the cricket as a youngster, like how were you getting, how were you doing that, were you watching it on TV, or were you...?
Yeah, you got to bloody
watch the games now and then that would obviously bloody be put on TV, what else? Just oh, normal stuff like in books, used to collect the cards, when you used to get, buy your chewy gum and you get your five cards or your cricket ones.
Can you just describe that for us?
Oh well you used to go to your shop and you take your twenty cents and you used to get your sherbet or your chewy gum and in the packet you used to get the five cards or whatever and you collected em. Like you used to do that for like your bands,
Kiss used to do it and stuff like that, and my brother had all the Kiss ones. And then you get your cricket ones and then they’d send you out posters or you’d send away for posters and you’d bloody, basically you’d put ’em all on there. And then you collect ’em and they were like souvenirs and stuff, same as the way people collect, I don’t know, Dragon Ball Z [collectible card game] ones these days. As back then it was more into that style, it was into your cricket, your football, yeah, just a lot more stuff like that and
your bands and stuff.
And what was on the cards?
Oh it’d basically just describe like, this is card number five, D.K. Lillee, who he was, where he’s come from, where he was born, just statistics and that. What his job was, how many games he played, how fast he bowled, how many wickets he took, all that sort of geno [general knowledge], how many games he played for Australia, where he came from. Sort of give you an overview of like who he is, what he is sort of thing.
Yeah picture on one side
and statistics mainly on the other side, yeah. It was pretty, like depending on what they were good at, like Kim Hughes and that, he’d have a batting stance, D.K. Lillee’d be bowling, Jeff Marsh obviously wicket gloves and behind the wicket, catching a wicket.
And was there swapping going on amongst kids?
Oh yeah, same with the marbles and that, all went around that area. But yeah, you used like, if you had a collectible one and they used to, if you had a good one but you had two of em, you’d hold that one and you’d swap it for two cards, or three cards, what they had that you
didn’t have and that, so there was a fair bit of that going on, always was, the old card swapping. And then marbles was exactly the same, you’d try and get all the best marbles and that.
What were the best marbles, do you remember?
Oh God, honeys, snakes, blood stones, they all had different names and different areas. You used to go down and play your half moons or your full moons or tag and stuff like that but that was usually a fair bit I used to play of that before school and stuff, used to go down and win marbles and win em back.
And semis and bloody jumbos and that sort of technique and all that. Yeah used to rock up all the time with your bag of marbles, going to school and get a challenge. So you’d have to put, he’d pick out three or four of your best marbles, you’d pick out three or four of his that you thought were just as good, put em in your ring and obviously you go at it. Friggin, try and flick em out, and obviously the ones you got out you kept, so if you got one out and he got the rest out he kept all that. Then you had a challenge of another day, or you can challenge him again for more marbles. But that’s basically
how it sort’a went, the law of the land.
Interviewee: Dale Thompson Archive ID 1679 Tape 03
So when did you first go to the reserves?
Jesus, thinking back now, ‘bout 1990, would have been about 1990. Went to 31 RQR, joined up there. Basically just wanted to like see about the army and that was the easiest way to sort of get in, sort of straight away. Wasn’t as much like, you had to do the same sort of tests and that but it was
sort of there in Townsville, didn’t want to jump straight in with me friggin hand over me head, sort’a thing, in the deep end, had a look. Plus at that stage I was still working for me uncle doing a bit of fencing so I still had a bit of a commitment to him, I didn’t want to leave him in the lurch either. So I went there and I was mainly doing weekends and bush trips for enemy trips and stuff like that and getting cash sort’a in hand, as they say, and being bloody army reserve. And just sort’a enjoyed it, got to fire a lot of weapons, play around with the
M-60, 2-0-3, M-16, SLR, just got to do stuff like that. Go have bush trips, like I said, just general stuff like that, enjoyed that sort of stuff, doing a bit of navigation and stuff, it was like using your mind a lot more without sitting in the class room sort’a thing. army’s a little bit more hands on, I suppose, than it is sitting down doing a lot more theoretical stuff.
What was it that brought you back to Townsville after being over in the West?
Oh basically it all
started, was Dad got a better paying job obviously out here, out the back at Boorilee, that’s out the back of Burdekin dam there. He got a better job there, we went out there, worked there for a while, and after a while being out there, there was nothing to do out there and all’s you did was obviously get into mischief and stuff. So I thought, “Oh no, I’ll come back in to Townsville,” obviously there’s more people my age, women, was a big influence there I suppose. So you come back in town, there’s, friggin run around, have a good time. And then obviously I helped work with me
uncles, I was just bouncing round, doing odd jobs here and there and stuff, cause I had to get back on me feet. Then I joined the bloody ‘chocos’ [chocolate soldiers], army reserve, and then yeah, from there I thought, “Oh yeah this wouldn’t be too bad,” and still didn’t know where I sort of wanted to go. Done another stint at TAFE in town here and like, oh sort’a like an apprenticeship basic course where you do a bit of everything, bit of electrical work, bit of
working on cars, bit of welding, stuff like that. And I thought, “Oh yeah,” I don’t really want to go back into the mines sort of thing, want something a bit more interesting I suppose. And I thought, “Oh darn it, I’ll join the army.” I thought at that stage obviously the Gulf War and all that sort of stuff, I thought, “Oh yeah, you never know.” You might get a join in, get away, and if it lasts longer than it is, probably get to go friggin on ops [operations] straight away sort of thing. So it did lean into that sort of stuff, that sort of Gulf War sort of come on and you go, “Oh crap,” you either,
same thing as like some war. You go, “Oh shit, there’s a bit of adventure that could be happening here, better get in before I miss out,” sort of thing. Same sort of appreciation sort of went through your head at that age I suppose.
Do you remember at school, can you remember them teaching you stuff about World War I and World War II?
Yeah, a big thing eh, they didn’t go into it too much, eh. I had a lot of problems at the school, at that era that they didn’t really teach. Cause I suppose it was sort’a after the, around and after that Vietnam
sort of era, so a lot of it was like, very like, touchy subject. And like even my Dad, like he never got to go to Vietnam or anything, and he bloody, even he had a lot of problems with a lot of teachers, that thing with their actual history, cause he had a few instances where he had to go up to the schools and that and rectify certain teachers with their history, doing with Australians at war and conflict. Cause Dad was pretty well right into that sort of stuff, he knew pretty well
everything and the dates and stuff, he done a lot of research, just for his own benefit and that. So a lot of it wasn’t taught that much eh, you learned more off hearing stories from me great uncles and me Dad, from his bloody Dad and all, more family orientated you got the information and Anzac Days and stuff. So the school really didn’t get into it too much, I don’t know why, too touchy, touchy.
Did your dad ever used to watch all the sort of
war documentaries on TV and drag you in to watch them?
Oh no, Dad wasn’t like, he wasn’t like as they say, a ‘war dog,” or anything, he didn’t glorify it or anything, being in the army and that. And he went to Malaysia a couple of times and got in to I think it was the Malaysian Emergency and stuff like that when he was over there. And he said, “Oh yeah, it was fuckin’ all about adventure,” and stuff like that, but he wasn’t at any stage glorifying stuff, especially talking about later on when he was out, talking about the
Gulf War and that sort of stuff. And he said, “A lot of it’s to do more with, a lot to do with mateship and stuff like that, and friends and...” cause you make mates for the rest of your life sort of thing. But he didn’t sort of go in there and say, or glorify it and you’re gonna come out with a bloody, become a hero or anything like that, sort of thing.
So where did you actually finish school, was it over in the West?
Bit of everywhere. Basically yeah that’s where I finished me year ten, like I said, then I finished a bit of year eleven over there, then I done some TAFE over there at,
trying to think, was it Wembley College TAFE, I was doing a bit of surveying there. Then I done a bit back over here then in the army, so a bit of everywhere, I tried a bit of everything, bounced around a bit.
What was the process to sort of join the reserves when you first went in?
Gotta push me memory back then. Just normal physical, do all your normal physical, like you go to the doctor, and basically a written test to do with a bit of maths,
English, nothing too advanced, and that was basically it. Then you had to go redo the test anyway when you join the regular army, but it was just a little bit longer. You do your normal, bloody half of it was more physical, then you went into like your maths, your English and your mechanical side of it.
What sort of basic training do they do for the reservists?
Same sort of thing, just a lot shorter, it’s a lot briefer. You sort’a go on ya bloody basic course, where you
rock up and they do the same sort’a things, just compressed more and so obviously, and obviously they don’t elaborate much on it, it’s more of an air show, have a bit of a feel sort of thing, you don’t do confirming sort of lessons. And yeah, you do your drill, like everything else and it’s just a little bit more laid back I suppose. Do your, not as much I suppose, PT [Physical Training] and stuff, physical training, as when I went through the regular army.
What else? Then you got into your ITs [Infantry Training] and then you started doing more your infantry and stuff I suppose, which you got into more doing your pack work, your contact drills, firing your weapons, learning your weapons, TOETs, bloody IAs [Immediate Action – drills] stuff like that, stoppages. Just mastering all your infantry stuff I suppose and getting into more route marching and stuff like that I suppose.
More on the
reserve thing, was all that sort of basic training, was that all just at Kissing Point?
Basically yes, pretty well most of it was and then we went out up top of High Range, for most of the IET [Initial Employment Training] stuff, initial employment training and the infantry stuff and that. But yeah most of it was done there and then that was all your drill stuff, and ahead of bloody, marching in line, and saluting and all that sort of stuff. But then when you did your initial employment training you went out to High Range where you do more infantry, where you dig
a pit, you do your contact drills, all that sort of stuff that goes with that level.
And which, what part of that training did you enjoy the most?
Oh I hated drill and all that, hated anything to do with any barracks, I enjoyed the bush more, no one likes drills and parades and getting dressed up and stuff like that.
Do you reckon just the skills that you had being you know, just a kid in the bush, sort of thing, helped you?
Yeah, a lot more the common sense I suppose, like in that stage I suppose, yeah, I would say.
Like, just helped out I suppose, especially with me old man already teaching me to do re-sections at the age of twelve, sort of helped a lot too. And basic navigational skills which come in handy, so I sort’a went in there knowing a little bit, but still obviously got the normal rude shock that everyone gets, you don’t know everything.
What was the rude shock?
Oh just more the discipline side of it I suppose, a lot harsher than I suppose your normal life in a civilian life isn’t it.
You get to do stuff and tell someone to shove off and stuff like that, you can’t get away with that. So get a lot more rude shock on that side.
So how often would you parade with the reserves?
Basically it was every Tuesday night, and then you used to do I think it was a weekend a month, but a lot of stages, at that stage, when I wasn’t working with me uncle I’d put me name down for GD work, general duties, which is helping out in courses. I done a couple of stints like playing enemy up at places like Cowley Beach,
for the ROBC courses which is your Regimental Officers Basic Course, I have to remember the terminology for half of this. So I got to play enemy for a lot of them and stuff like that, and then playing enemy for some of the regular army. Yeah basically that but mainly just GD work and general duties.
That must have been good fun, playing enemy?
Yeah, oh you get a little bit more freelance then, we’re dealing with a lot of the other people. Lot of
the blokes we had in that training side of it were pretty good, we had a couple of blokes that were like all SASR [Special Air Service Regiment], better not, get upset by ’em. And they were pretty good to us and they looked after us well. And yeah, we walked, at one stage there we walked fourteen clicks through the bush up there and that was there with no water. And we had to wait for them to do a beach landing and they didn’t turn up cause it was too rough or something for all the officers, so we had to walk all the way back and we got back and we told em we had no water and that.
Then we got this one bloke there, he one of the warrant officers, yeah, they got a Unimog in for us and got us all the water we needed and stuff, cause we couldn’t get it through the natural chain of command, so he got it all sorted out for us. But yeah it was interesting and I met a lot of interesting blokes, like a lot of blokes that basically joined the reserves that were going to uni to get pocket money. Oh just a handful of people like, a couple of people just off the streets and stuff like that, and said, “Oh I’ll join the reserve to get pocket
money,” and to join the experience, so it was good, you got to meet all these different people from all walks of life. From like people from like street gangs from Sydney and things like that, decide to get out of Sydney and come up here and decide they want to join the reserves, sort’a better themselves and things like that. You met a lot of interesting people.
Did you get any of that, the whole choco business there?
Oh you get that everywhere. Yeah I got that when I first joined the army, cause we were down there at Kapooka and we rocked up first day there and this bloke jumps
out of the cupboard and starts firing away with this SLR. And he’s going off like in a Yowie suit [camouflage uniform] and all that and it was part of your initial sort’a surprise and I’m just standing there going, “Oh it’s only an SLR with a blank firing attachment and running out.” And that was it and they all knew I was a choco straight away cause I knew what was going on, cause everyone else was all jumping around like jelly beans. So sort’a, I got picked out straight away then, not, I should’ve friggin learned that when they tell you if you got a driver’s license, it’s not to drive a car it’s to drive a broom, so you don’t really put your hand
up for anything. When you’re in the army, you sit at the back, become the grey man, it’s easier. “Do you know how to do this?” “Nope.”
So how long did you spend in the reserves?
About a year and a half I think it was, year and a half. I basically joined straight up through there, I didn’t even get, cause as I was going through getting joined up in the regular army, they didn’t even discharge me from the reserve. And they were phoning up and asking me where I was and I said, “Well it’s a bit late now, I’m already in the army. And he said, “Oh, no worries.” But it was good, I, me RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] and all that, I had
at chocos, he was an ex-SAS [Special Air Service] bloke as well, went over there for a while, got back in the (UNCLEAR) so I seen him a few time. And I joined up with another mate of mine Terry, the other bloke I used to know from Western Australia, Rubbacech. I joined up with another little Kiwi [New Zealander] bloke, bloody, Williamson, he was a character, he was gonna turn out to be a funny bloke when we got in the army, it was funny enough when we joined up. So it was pretty good, all sitting there in recruiting just looking at everyone and Terry was PNG [Papua New Guinea],
Rubbaczech obviously somewhere over there in bloody ‘souvlaki-land’, bloody Willy was Kiwi and then there was me the Aussie seventh generation, and bloody, so we were a bit of a character mob, heading on down there.
So you were all in the reserves together were you?
Oh not all, just mainly me and Terry, but these other blokes I knew sort of before and they all sort’a rocked up on that day. Williamson, I didn’t know Williamson, but he was a bit of a character there on the day, rocked up, old typical Kiwi,
full of beans.
So was any of that, all you blokes join up all together, was any of that planned or just...?
Nah, Terry didn’t know either, he didn’t tell me, cause I was in the reserves and he joined up about six months after I did. And cause his old man was army bloke as well and yeah I didn’t know, he rocked up, “How ya goin’ Terry?” “Hey, what’s going on mate?” “Oh, you’re getting in?” “Yeah.” So that was basically it. Rubbaczech was the same, cause I didn’t even know it was him cause he’d changed that much. I’s just going, I heard this name, Rubbaczech, Jeez that name’s familiar, there can’t be too many of them people around.
And I go, “Hey, Rubbaczech, did you go to school over there, Western Australia, Southern Cross?” “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” “Oh,” and cause I knew his brother as well, when we got in the army, his brother was already in too, his younger brother, and I knew him as well. So yeah, it just amazing the things that come together.
So what did you actually have to do to transfer from reserves to regular?
Oh wasn’t that much, just put the paperwork in, but as usual in the reserve unit nothing works fast there. And my paperwork for me discharge or transfer papers went from the top to the bottom and by the
time they got to the bottom, I was already in the bloody army for about, I think three weeks or three or four weeks, I think it was, already in their a month. And they decided to find it, go, “Oh no wonder we haven’t seen him.’
Do you know what it was that made you decide, yep, this is for me?
Yeah, probably the Gulf War, would have been the biggest influence at that point and stage, cause I was just tip toeing around, still trying to find me feet in life I suppose, trying to find what direction I thought my life should be. I’ve always sort of looked at, you know, and then I thought,
“Oh well, Gulf War sort of starting and all that around that area.” I thought, “Well you never know, might miss out or this’ll be the, like everything, everything happens for a reason.” So I said, “Oh stuff it, I’ll join up.”
Can you remember hearing about Gulf War I starting?
Yeah, basically it was all about that, cause that was the stage being in choco’s and all that sort of stuff. Then it was obviously plastered over the news and the newspapers so it was pretty hard not to, and being chocos and that. And all the old war dogs still down there, all the ex bloody, cause we still had a couple of like, old
Vietnam Veterans and stuff training us and stuff. Yeah, so we had some interesting blokes that helped to get us trained, that was even in chocos. So that’s probably a lot of influence they gave me too I suppose, talking to a lot of those blokes, being old Vietnam Veterans.
Did you follow what was going on with, like did you follow the war?
Oh not so much follow, you had a rough idea, like what it was all about, invading, America said, “Get back, we’ll stand on your toes,” normal big boy back yard syndrome and that.
And then America said, “Oh look, we’ll come in and kick your butt.” And that’s about what sort’a happened and we said, “Oh well you never know, it might escalate,” or whatever and that. You never know, we might get a chance to bloody go over there and do something or something like that, but never eventuated, but.
So you said you had to do a lot of the same things...?
To join up?
Yeah, you mentioned...?
Yeah, just a lot more in-depth.
Where abouts were they done?
They were done there at bloody Walker Street, the main building there at recruiting. Yeah, rocked up in there and yeah you sat there for
basically a day, went through all your sort’a, then you, at the end you had your interview with your recruiting warrant officer and he said, “Yay,” or “nay,” and said, “Oh we’ll see you in two weeks.” “Bring all your, leave all your crap at home and bring yourself,” and that was about it. He said, “You’ve been, we’ll take ya,” basically that’s about the words he said, “no worries.”
Do you remember what you did in that two weeks that you sort’a had to get yourself ready?
Yeah, ran around got, had a few drinks here and there. Said hello to a few people, and goodbye to a lot of people. But
it was not a big deal, cause basically after about sixteen, seventeen weeks of training at both Kapooka and Singleton, I was back up here posted at 1R anyway, so a lot of people didn’t even know I went. So it wasn’t too bad in that way, just changed a bit, got a little bit more muscular at the top and lost a bit more hair. So.
What gear did they tell you to bring like down to Kapooka?
Oh, just basically like a bit of going out gear, couple of shorts, casual stuff. Not that you got to see any
of it, they took it off you straight away and threw it in a room and you didn’t see that ‘til about week seven or something like that, had to go out for a day trip. So you never got to pretty well touch any of it anyway. It was just there, so when you went up to Singleton and that, you had weekends off and that and you go to Newcastle.
So when did you swear on, do your oath?
The twenty-fifth of June, ’91.
And that was here, Walker Street?
Might even be earlier
than that. Yeah, think it was there, or that’s when I got me photograph done at Kapooka, so probably would’ve been, yeah probably would’ve been that morning cause we pretty well flew down, all of us, on the plane.
They flew you down to Kapooka, turned at Wagga Wagga?
Yep, flew us all down, we went down there and had a fly down and then got us the bus, and then we got off the bus and all got the rude shock, the usual thing like you see on the movies, everyone yelling and screaming at ya.
How many of you were there on the bus?
Oh, all up for that
group, come from the Townsville area, there was, I think there was about thirty of us or something, there was a few of us there, marched in at 13 Platoon, Bravo Company [B Company].
So you all went in together?
Oh most of the blokes from Townsville yeah, pretty well cause you have that enlistment sort of date, and then you get blokes from everywhere else. Obviously cause I kept choco number and that, so I kept me rego [registration] number that I had there so that was a little bit more obvious too, cause I had more digits than some of the other people.
So can you remember that getting off the bus on that first day?
had a bit of a laugh, I sort’a knew a little bit more of what I was getting into than some of the other blokes. They, cause they, you see the recruiting video they used to give you here in Townsville and I just watched it and laughed me head off. And like, cause it talks about, oh they got a cafeteria, they got a golf course, they’ve got a tennis... and people rocked with golf clubs and crap, I’m not lying, and we just laughed, cause they were ‘phtt’, “You got no chance to do that mate.” And I was, they said, threw the gear in the cupboard, they got no chance.
So you reckon the old recruiting video’s a bit of a...?
Oh yeah, she was a dud that one, she was a sucker-ville [bad]. I already sort’a had a rough idea, I got a few shocks here and there but basically I sort’a knew what end of the stick I was getting, a lot of these other people, I think they got the wrong end of the stick.
Can you remember any of the other television ads that they used to have for army recruiting?
Oh I don’t think they had like much that I can remember, it was more just off to the bloody normal stuff, there’s a lot more on TV
now, oh heaps more ads now. Like now and then there was one, there’s more in the paper now, there’s more on the TV now. Back then I think there was only a handful now and then for like I think it was reserves. So it wasn’t a big thing cause they were, keep getting a lot of people through I suppose, now it’s a little bit more difficult I suppose.
So none of that, you know, you didn’t see anything else that influenced you other than...?
No, just normal life, stories, talking to veterans, yeah, normal general
friggin communications stuff I suppose with other people, not so much anything to do with, anything to do with TV or anything like that.
So what can you tell us about what they did to you down at basic training at Kapooka?
Oh God, oh rocked up, bloody took all our gear off us basically, standing around in our bloody undies [underwear] in the hallway, and they rocked up with all these dodgy bloody God damn track suits, one fits all. Oh crack
ya up. We were there and we had this bloke, and his name was Hussey, he’s still in too. And he rocked up mate and he must’ve got the biggest one you could get, and then we had this other bloke down the other, Heeney, and he was like an ex body builder and he’s sitting at the end man, he’s got like this, like, looked like the thing Hussey should’ve had on, Heeney had on. And he’s there and he’s got it stretched to the max., and this bloke was like, I think he’s about a hundred and twenty kilos, chest was huge, it was like, he’d been doing body building and bouncing down at Newcastle and that. And this corporal comes in and goes,
“Who’s that down there with the chest?” “That’d be me corporal,” this little voice he’s got. And he goes, “I don’t think it fits me corporal.” He was as funny as crap, he was. So we’re all standing round in these little bloody green things with a yellow stripe down the thing with ‘Army’ on the back, so we all sort of fit in and look together. All got our hair, so we all march up to the barbers, we all got these glutzy little goldy-locks that we all had. And we’re down there getting number
bloody two’s, straight over the top, ‘vrr, vrr’, and we had a couple of the barbers give all the blokes their side burns back and stuff like that, shaved ’em off and gave ’em to ’em. And oh but we’re all just sitting around laughing and you can only laugh, like they’re completely trying to break ya from day one. Then you had to march around like that in a group, went in and had bloody breakfast, you could turn the bowl up with the bloody porridge you had in it, wouldn’t fall out, not in a million years. Everyone was fighting for bloody food and bread obviously,
cause you had your rations and that, trying to cut you down and, oh yeah. And then you got into bloody, what else after that? And then you had your normal reveille in the morning, you had to run out with your sheets over your shoulder in your jocks and stuff, cause you had to basically they made sure that you didn’t make your bed and just sleep on the floor, cause it was all about routine and breaking you and stuff. Then you, so you had to run out with both sheets over your shoulder, then they’re, cause they’d yell out “Hallway thirteen,” and you all wake up and come out, that’s your reveille sort of thing. The NCO’d [Non Commissioned Officer] go, “You got ten
minutes,” so you had to make your bed, race down, have a shave, you used to shower a lot of times more in the afternoon, cause you had no time in the morning. You used to have to wake up at like four or five in the morning to sit on the toilet, to go to the toilet, cause you had no time any other time, cause they were just making you run around like a blue arse fly. And they, yeah so, that was interesting times, you had to laugh. And bloody, I had an ex cav [cavalry] oh I had a bloke that was
(con...UNCLEAR) listed cav in me room, another bloke that was, he went to transport, he was in my room. He initially went in, had a broken leg, got back out and got back in. Another bloke, Whitey, in mine, and then there was me.
So how many guys per room was it?
Oh there was four, we had a partition in the middle, two beds on one side, two on the other, had your lockers with all your socks, jocks, pyjamas and everything. So basically it was there and then you had your normal hall way, you had your NCO hall way down the end, bloody all your
corporals and that, they were down there, that was just their normal room to iron their clothes and come in and yell and scream at ya and stuff. Then you went down, bloody, right to the end, you had your bathroom, your toilets, and where you had your shave and that. And they had the old, not like the cut throat ones, but they got the other ones where you put the blade in that. Holy crap. I tell ya, the first couple of days I think there was more blokes with friggin injuries from friggin razor blades infliction than there was from anything else, people standing in the hallway with blood dripping off of them
everywhere. Oh so, once it got squared away and stuff and then you used to do cyclone training and that.
Oh yeah, you gotta jump in your room and mess everything up, so and then you had, that was cyclone training. Or it was, there’s a cyclone, so you gotta take all your, what was the other one, there was another one. Where you had to, if you got in heaps of trouble they used to do, like, if someone stuffed up it was group punishment, it wasn’t individual. So they make you take all your bedding, everything down the stairs, everything out of your cupboard, put it all on
the parade ground set it all out again like you’re in your rooms, all set up, and then they go down and inspect you. And then you’d have to race it all back and do it all again, and that was part of your making and breaking ya, especially your discipline, if someone stuffed up. So, yeah, you had to look at it and laugh sort of thing, if you sat there and thought seriously about it you’d just go, “My God, what am I getting myself into.” But it’s part of their program where they got to break you down, and work as a team and stuff. And then you got into PT physical training, and the PTIs [Physical Training Instructors] they loved
bloody old Heeney because he was some big muscle bound bloody people. He was lucky to do seven heaves, he was that huge, couldn’t get up the ropes for one stage there, like, but oh, he was a funny bloke.
So his physical strength didn’t help him?
Oh just cause he weighed too much, wasn’t physical strength, he was stronger than all of us put together, but try and lift a hundred and twenty kilo on two little, on his arms, so where the rest of us had a little bit more, so we all had to get... See I concentrated on push ups when I got in, cause me old man said push ups were in, sort of thing, so I could do a fair
few push ups before I even got in, cause I was doing a bit of prep. And I got in there and there was more heaves than push ups, and now it’s gone back to push ups, so. And you used to climb ropes and that, heaves were to get you up and down the ropes. So, you got together and you got all these different characters and oh, you had funny times, bad times, you learn out who people are liars or ‘tittle tattlers’ [tell untrue stories about you], or good friends or back stabbers, or anything, so yeah, that sort’a stuff went on. And you just, you worked out who your friends
were, who you weren’t, but it was good to get in and you made some good mates. Cause Terry, he was in there, I had Williamson, he was in my section, I was in one section, Terry was Three and Doyley was Two, so basically there for the platoon. I think we had about, I think was about fifty of us or plus, would’ve been close to, in that platoon. And out of that, about twenty or thirty of us, pretty well all of us went to Singleton,
when we got to Singleton, about fifty of em out of there, nearly thirty of us out of Singleton, bloody went, pretty well went to 1R. So we all sort of went as a group, sort of thing, that was the main reason I suppose, you all just phh, cause obviously infantry were more, after more people than, that’s where most people go.
You said you had to laugh at the way you were being treated and that, were there blokes that couldn’t handle it?
Yeah, oh yeah, there was blokes that had bad days and good days. Oh probably talk about a lot of em but we had
incidents down there and stuff like that, some of em good, some of em not so good. Bloody, we had one major accident down there when we were putting up this pulley system and this, it’s not good to laugh about it, but it was funny at the time. And we’re putting up a flying fox and this block and tackle, the whole thing just pulled out of the eye, and one of the blokes basically got hit by it, it shattered all the one side of his face. And bloody, at that stage it was, we walked up, he was at the beginning, I walked up
next to him, I said, “Oh no,” and I seen one of me mates, so I went up there and I was standing next to him. And he was the bloke that copped the whole force, so, but they had to fly the best doctor in out of Australia to reconstruct the whole side of his face. But he survived only because of probably all our quick thinking and stuff like that, but a lot of people in that platoon were pretty shocked up after that actual incident and that. And we had a, one of our corporals and that, we had to give him CPR [Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation] pretty well all the way back to the bloody hospital for the (rap...UNCLEAR). Like yeah, that was our first
experience you’re looking at that sort of thing. I think a lot of people got raked over the coals for that, so.
So it was the secco [Second in Command] got hit or one of the recruits?
No, no, it was just one of the recruits that got done. He was going to engineers, I think it was, yeah.
So how did they deal with that afterwards, like you said a lot of blokes were shocked?
I don’t think the army were doing very well at that stage with anything to do with de-briefing. It was like bloody, sort of laugh about it and sort of off with it, that was about it, sort of thing, there was not much you could do about it. We had to,
there was me, cause we’re in charge of the section at that stage, like they put you in charge of a group of the blokes, but you sort of just, I don’t know, like bloody 2IC [Second in Command] as they call it, the section, sort of thing, you run most of the admin and stuff like that. So you had to talk to em and stuff like that, but that was about as far as that went.
How many sections did they have in your platoon?
They had three, three sections in that one platoon. Then you got your boss, or your officer, which is
bloody, your captain or lieutenant at that stage, then you had a sergeant that done most of your admin, then you obviously had your three corporals which run the sections. That’s basically how it operated pretty well down from there.
Can you remember getting kitted out with uniforms?
Oh yeah, I give you some interesting... Bloody, we’re down there and they’re going, oh you’re putting hats on your head and that, and going ‘boof.” And they’re going, “Oh that doesn’t fit, who cares, keep moving,” putting boots on and crap like that and give you this. And we had this bloke Oli, Oliver, he went to, he
bloody got in, he went to 3R and all that, become a splat cat and stuff like that. But he was there, he’s only like seventeen, just off the streets eh. And they put a hat on his head and he goes, “It doesn’t fit,” and they’re going, “What’s your problem?” He goes, and basically, typical straight off the street, and he just told em to get f’ed. And I thought, “Oh, here we go.” Because he hadn’t had any military law de-briefing they couldn’t do much about it, but obviously the MPs [Military Police] rocked up and stuff, he basically told em all to get f’ed. And we’re all just, half of us were laughing
our heads off because obviously we didn’t know much about them. We thought, “Oh God, he’s in a lot of strife here.” So they marched him down to the cells for a while and stuff and give him a bit of a scare and that. And he rocked up the next day and all that, he was fine but they just basically gave him a bit of a scare that you can’t do things like that. But fuck it was funny to watch. Cause basically the whole, you could’ve heard a pin drop after he said it and that, but typical seventeen year old straight out of, I think it was Sydney I think it was.
Yeah. Staying at his Mum’s place, straight in the army I think it was a bit of a rude shock for him.
Were you surprised at how much gear you got?
Oh yeah and no, I suppose you need that if you, especially bloody, if you’re gonna go bush and stuff like that. Yeah, they say these days, you talk to a lot of the other veterans and that and you go, “God, some of the gear you got, you look like a mule,” the amount of stuff you carry now, compared to what they used to carry back then.
And when you got your hair cut, was that a freebie, or’d you have to pay for that as well?
Nah, that was a freebie, the first one.
They had local barbers there I think, obviously government contract. Oh it wasn’t like you were really getting a style cut, number two straight over the top. They weren’t into, I don’t think you needed too much requisition like references to bloody, be a thing now. It’s probably half the corporals just on their off day or something, but yeah.
And what weapons did you get issued with down there?
At that stage, everything was obviously in the armoury and you issued, cause we kept getting paid, we were getting paid cash then. And what you do, you
used to do bolt drill, you used to go up and get your bolt, cause obviously all the bolts for the SLRs were kept in the safe and that and you go up and do your bolt drill, the same drill you do when you get your cash and stuff. You count it, “Yes sir I’ve got all me cash here,” salute, about turn and walk off with all your money, not that you got much. And yeah, so bloody, yeah, the SLR was the main one then, you didn’t, a lot of the other stuff was, cause that’s your basic weapon at that stage. The Steyr we got to look at a little bit
as we were leaving, cause it was just coming in sort of stuff then. So we didn’t get to touch hands on too much of that. And mainly when you got to infantry when you started touching all the other stuff, like your M-79, and obviously more.
So what was the hours of the day for you guys to basic training?
Well reveille you’re looking at six o'clock, obviously got up earlier than that, do your ten minutes this, shit, shower,
shave. Then you all obviously down the bottom all formed up, march down, one bloke marched you down, go to breakfast. Bloody, that’s if you didn’t do PT first, but most times you could have done PT first, they marched you down, you go to the PTIs, they get a hold of yer, thrash yer a bit. Make you running up and down hills and bloody carry tyres and push ups and heaves and whatever they wanted, they had set program then or pool circuit. Then you come back, get
dressed as quickly as you could, race down, have breakfast, which was usually one ration of bacon, egg, your toast, some baked beans, you could have some cereal or bread if you wanted. That was about it. Then you waited to basically do all your lessons.
And was the day, did you have like a program that you...?
Oh yeah, everything’s set out, everything’s like clock work down there, that’s why if you’re not there on time you get in big trouble. But yeah, then the, done that, done your lessons, go up
to lunch and if it was drill, weapons, bush craft, anything like that. Mainly Kapooka was a lot to do with discipline, breaking ya, drill and dress and stuff like that, you did a lot of ironing and a lot of painting, bloody, and getting stuff ready, and cleaning. Cleaning the lines and that, the army in their wisdom always have brass in everything, so you got to forever polish stuff, so yeah, and then you, cause obviously you had to clean the lines and that first thing in the morning too. So all groups have
designated areas, like my section would’ve had, this week you have a roster, we’d do the toilet area, the other section does the hallway. And you all appreciate and you start learning that when you’re walking places you walk over the brass so you don’t step on it so you’re not smudging it. And it’s all working as a team, and that’s what they want, they want you to work as a team, so it’s less work when you have to do it. And you gotta get out and polish the floors every day and clean sinks and make the beds and order stuff. And things like
that, so it gets you to work as a team and get thing’s done on time.
Was everything done as a platoon or did you sometimes break off into your sections?
Yeah, break off in your section, but most of the time you’re pretty well on platoon. But you do individual section then you come together as a platoon and do big parades or big drill movements and stuff like that.
How well can you remember your section commander there?
Oh, Perry, oh I could tell you some stories about him, but I don’t think you wanna know that. I put him to bed a few times, he didn’t mind a
drink, so he was a bit of a bloody character. Yeah, he wasn’t a bad bloke, bloody, we, oh who else? Oh we had a couple of other blokes, I won’t mention all their names but yeah, we had some characters there, but he wasn’t a bad one. Me first one there, he was, the one that spotted me as a choco, I was pretty lucky cause I think he had it in for me for the first couple of days but he got transferred and this other bloke come in so it’s all in the luck, all works somehow. So I had a pretty run with that,
and he wasn’t a bad one, like I said, he made me up and I was pretty well 2IC for most of time I was there. So, even though that was, it was good to get the responsibility, a lot of time it was hard. Because obviously you’re dealing with a lot of people that didn’t have a lot of self-discipline here and there, so you copped a lot of crap because of them, and you had to take it. That was basically and was none of it to do with you but it’s just how it was, the responsibility come downhill, as they say, the snowball effect, and I was the end of it. Cause you can’t really go any lower
cause I was a recruit like the rest of them. Basically you could give em probably a crappier job like taking the rubbish bin out, that’d take em a little bit longer than everyone else, but besides that, yeah.
What part of the training did you enjoy the most?
Oh Kapooka was like everything, no one liked Kapooka. Christ, that was where they friggin basically breaking you from civilian to military life and thrash you in PT and feed you this amount of food so you lose a lot of weight and you get, become a lean mean fighting machine. But Singleton was, I
loved, I enjoyed it sort of there, if I could go back in time I would. But yeah, Kapooka is just normal, breaking ya. So you had good moments, but most of the moments I remember are probably the worst moments I had there. So you gotta take the good with the bad, it’s like everything I suppose.
And did you get the normal, sort of the Auscam issue, as far as your...?
Yeah we had, still had a set of greens when I went through, but we had mainly,
actually I think we still had most greens, I think we had one or two Auscams [Australian Camouflage uniform], and most of our webbing we still had was green stuff. We still had some, cause old SLR stuff, a lot of the cam stuff didn’t come in till I think we, I think we got to Singleton or we got into the battalion, I don’t know, I think it might’ve been Singleton. Bit au fait, cause I know I still had a lot of old green gear eh.
Cause this was 1990 was it?
Yeah, ’91. So I think me first pack
I got when I was down there was actually the original green one that was issued for Vietnam Veterans, which was just the top pack with two pouches on the side. Bloody, trying to remember back now, but yeah, I think it was, cause I remember we still had a set of greens, or we didn’t even see cams. Have to look up that one again.
That’s all right.
But that’s as far as I can remember
When was the first time at Kapooka where they actually let you go up to the boozer [bar] and have a beer?
Oh I think it was week four or five, blue tabs. Cause you start off on red tabs, you do that for a while you go to blue tabs then yellow tabs is when you get out, blue tabs is when you get drunk. We had a few shemozzles [fights] in the blue tabs, we got up there, we got into a bit of a drunky [drunken fight], and old Master Blaster was there, Heeney and Hussey. Cause Hussey was a little bloke that I told you about, oh Christ, and he smoked cigarettes like no tomorrow. I think he used to drink gin and
tonic and he was like a little feeble little red thing, but oh Christ he had a mouth on him eh, gob off to anybody. So and, so we used to call him Master Blaster cause then his best mate was bloody Heeney, and he was like, he’s a good bloke, yeah. Bit slower than normal but friggin, like he was the big body builder dude. So Hussey’d be over there gobbing off [talking back] to someone and Heeney’d come over and punch ’em, so that’s how they got the Master Blaster team. And few times we got in a few ruckuses up
there and that with obviously the other ones, because have a few drinks and the usual thing, the yellow tabbers coming down trying to pick on the blue tabs and that. They get a few beers, and the bloody platoon we had wasn’t bad, we had like Terry and Doyle and all that and we didn’t mind a bit of a scuffle. So there’s a few scufflings going on we had to sort out in the, typical territory stuff, yellow tabs, we had a few incidents there. A couple of blokes got a broken jaw and that, but he fell off the stairs, he didn’t fall down. So, yeah,
we had a few incidents.
To people that don’t know, can you just explain the tab system?
Oh well red tab was just your initial first three or four weeks, it’s just like a level when you go through training, it’s to recognise people, it’s like to segregate ya. You get there, you’re all recruits and stuff, red tab is like your first three or four weeks in that level of training. Then you go to blue tabs, blue tag signifies basically to anyone that red tab is like, “Oh yeah, they can go to the boozer now and then, buy chocolate.” Its
like a reward thing, you aspire to become a blue tab, so you gotta pass all your tests and that to get to the blue tab. Then when you get to blue you go, “Oh look at the yellow,” and the yellow is like, “Oh yeah, they’re gonna be leaving soon.’
And how’s that signified?
Oh you just, up the top there, you just got like a piece of strip that goes on the top, like officers put their pips on their epaulettes up the top, you just get a blue and a red, and a yellow, that’s basically how you’re walking around.
Interviewee: Dale Thompson Archive ID 1679 Tape 04
I just want to start off ask you about a couple of the terms that you were using?
Oh God damn. I’ve gotta remember half of ’em now.
Splat cat was 3R, that’s terminology they get when they get their red beret. Cause they jump out and the parachutes they give em are designed for throwing out cargo but they give em to them, cause I’ve done me para [paratrooper] course. So that’s what the old splat cat.
Reveille. That’s usually in the morning, you know, as you see in the old documentaries, they play reveille with the bugle, ‘doo, doo, doo’. First thing in the morning, like an alarm clock, reveille. They’ll play a, bloody, over a audio system, basically music’ll come on, and on boats they get, reveille is someone going, it is now blah, blah, blah, six o'clock, reveille, reveille, reveille. So it’s basically like their idea of alarm clock,
so everyone gets up and moves at the same time.
And one you just mentioned off tape about blousing your boots?
Oh blousing your boots. Well when I first got in you had to blouse it up near your laces, so you presented your whole boot, you used to get like a rubber band, you used to blouse em. Now they laying them down with their parade dress with their polys [polyester uniform], but when I first got in they actually bloused ’em.
So that means like you tuck them...
Yep, you just gotta like...
inside your boot?
No, no, no, no, you basically got your
boot on, and then your trousers fall down, like you normally wear, and that, and you got a lackey band around the top of your boot, and all’s you do is tuck up the bottom under, and it’s blousing. So it’s up near the top of your boot near your lace, so it looks more, I don’t know, straighter, more formal.
Okay. And when you’re at Kapooka, what’s ‘the challenge?’
The challenge? Well that’s basically the end physical task that they give you, to complete that, to, it’s like a test, basically, ‘the challenge.’
Where you go at the end and you go out, you do your bloody sleep over night, then you gotta go through and it’s, comprises of everything. Obstacle course, endurance, fireman carry, then you gotta fall on plate at the end. So it’s basically, it’s about twenty or thirty ks, it’s basically you route march there, route march is basically walking with your pack on but marching, sort of thing, as a group. You get there, you get to a next stand and
that’ll be the obs [obstacle] course, then you gotta go through in your sections as a team, help everyone over the wall, you all get timed. Then you go through your battle, bloody bayonet assault course, which is the next one. You rock up, you fix all your bayonets, you go through and you gotta obviously get through there in a certain time, taking a, asserting objectives and tasks. Get to the end of that, then you gotta bloody do a stretcher carry. They’re all tests, physical tests, the same as if you’re maybe in a battle,
where you’ve gotta go through. You gotta do your section attacks, platoon attack, so you all go together, then you do your re-org. which is your re-organisation. You come together, get new ammo, get ready, pick up again, then you gotta go through another run with a stretcher to get your injured out, cause obviously everyone gets injured and stuff. And then you get to the next one where you gotta fall on plate. You rock up, get to the range, once you get there, you’re all pretty tired and rustled out after the last twenty ks. And then you gotta shoot down falling
plates and then you all get evaluated on that. In the end obviously, whoever wins the challenge gets a trophy and all that, but at the same time you’ve passed all the physical challenges that you’d probably require to do, cause you’re doing navigating and everything while you’re still doing it. Cause you got stands with TOETs and navigation and written tests and get to the end, and it’s pretty well the final test of everything put together. And you get to the end and you pass, pass ‘the challenge.” Then you given your
infantry lanyard, and then you get ready, and it says basically you’ve passed.
So all those obstacles along the challenge, are they just pass or fail or are they sort of graded?
Oh not really, it’s pretty well hard to fail if you work as a team. Like, cause one of ours, I got photos of me and a mate, we had to carry one of our mates, pretty well last bit before the end of the fallen plate, and he, cause he had hypothermia. When we first went through the first lot of water in the bayonet assault course
and that, and that’s why they didn’t let us go across the lake and that cause they had to crack the ice, and they thought everyone’d friggin freeze and die or (melt...UNCLEAR) on the bottom. So he went down so we had to carry him, and in the end we had to cover him in the fallen plate by shooting a lot of his plates down. So it’s all a team effort and that was to get him through. Fair enough he was sick on the day but it’s like everything, still a good soldier.
Were there girls?
Girls, yes. There was girls there at Kapooka, not at Singleton and they go through the same sort of
stuff, they’re, just have normal thing. They got like girl platoon and stuff and then you got boy platoon, same sort of thing, they’re over in another area.
So at that point do you know how long girls had been allowed to enlist?
Oh not really. I think they’d been there for a while, eh. I don’t think it was like an off thing, they’d been going through there for a fair... cause everyone goes through Kapooka, that’s where you go to get broken, and from there you go to your initial employment training. So if you suddenly go, “Oh,” at the end of Kapooka, they
go, “You’re gonna be a cook,” and you go off to where the cooks go. If you’re gonna be a truck driver, you go off to Puckapunyal, if you go to infantry, you go to Singleton. And obviously the same thing for the women. If the women go to, I don’t know, clerical, go to truck driving they go there as well to Puckapunyal, and they all, they just got their own platoon with different... they get segregated.
And it is fairly segregated the whole way through?
Yeah, they were usually in, I think it was Delta Company. Most of the time it was segregated, they were in their own, bloody, the whole
building basically designed for them and that. The only time you got to see em is maybe on a weekend out or bloody, at the end of it at the final function, if they were going through with your platoon, but I didn’t have any in mine.
Was there, in general, how were the women in the army regarded?
Oh normal as anyone I suppose. They’re there, do a job like anyone else. There’s no, up, down, there’s no things, in the end, some thought it was good, cause you have, now and then there’d be women at the
boozer. So you can’t have good and bad.
Was there much rivalry do you know?
What, between the girls and the boys? No, not really, normal thing, probably blokes bluing over trying to get the girl, that’d be about it. But yeah, no, I don’t think there was anything major, just normal.
So in the interaction at the boozer or just generally, was there much fraternising between the guys and the girls?
Oh course there was. You’re talking about Australian soldiers.
But off, no, don’t know what you’re talking about. Course there was.
Are there rules about that?
What are the rules?
You get caught, you get in trouble. You don’t get caught, you got away with it. Like everything, get caught do the time, if you don’t, you don’t. That’s how everything works.
Do they pretty much sort of know that it goes on but turn a blind eye or do they police it?
Yeah, they do police it. You just gotta be more cunning than they are. It’s just like everything, I suppose,
like anywhere. Go to any, like, boarding schools and all that and they’re all the same, segregated, but they all seem to find a way. So it’s the same thing anyway. But most of the time they keep it to, they go, when they go out on weekends, or bloody, not so much up at the boozer because they know it’s more, too many eyes and that, or when they bloody leave. Same thing, obviously when it’s a lot less obvious.
And what leave did you get in that training?
Well there, out of the whole thing I think
I had about three or four days off in the middle and I had one or two weekends near the end, that was about it. And I went to Sydney with, who’d I go there with, trying to think of his name now, he’s still in the army as far as I know, he went to water transport in Perth. But yeah, we went in to Sydney, went to stay about, I think it was Percy Street or Perry, somewhere, it’s about two streets away from Kings Cross, where we went. We went down there and bloody had a good time,
it was a very interesting world for a typical country boy to go to King’s Cross.
Yeah, what did you think?
Ooh yeah, different. At that stage it was a lot different than what it is now. Now it’s a tourist resort. When I went through there it was a little bit different. People trying to give you drugs in the middle of the street and the typical prostitutions everywhere, the pimps, really dark alleys, really shonky, shady joints. The normal thing where you go in and pay five dollars
for a plastic cup and a beer for all the sex shows and stuff like that.
So what did you guys get up to on your three or four days off?
Oh had a bit of fun, like normal Aussies [Australians] get up to suppose. Enjoy ourselves, got on the drink, running round chasing women, about that, yeah. Basically just rest, basically just sat around had a beer, pretty well every day, sort of thing. Went to, made, checked out King’s Cross, what else? Went to Bondi Beach, don’t swim there, too cold.
Where else? Yeah, only had about three days. A lot of other blokes, I know blokes that come back to Townsville and that, I said, “Nah, I’ll go somewhere I haven’t been.” For like, like right in the middle I’ve never been so I went there and see what the rest of the world was like, cause everyone talks about King’s Cross, so bit of an experience.
A lot of the sort of older World War II guys and stuff that we’ve spoken to have told us about you know, when they got their leave in the middle of their training and stuff, how they were
received in the outside world. What was...?
Yeah, oh most of the time you weren’t, like back then they probably would’ve walked around more in their military outfit. Us, soon as your out, you’re straight in civilians, for, I don’t know reason, I think that’s how the government manage it. Soon as you go down you’re in civvies [civilian clothes] anyway, get on the bus, drive down, they drive you to Sydney or you fly, most time we got driven, and that was it. So you’re in civvies most of the time, so no-one really knew, you had a short haircut, big deal, that was it. Unless you mentioned someone or run into someone you knew,
you go, “Oh you’re in the army,” and that was about it. The best one we had was probably when we left, we spent about eight hours in Kings Cross again, that was in full uniform, but that was different, yeah. That was, we had to get on a plane to fly up to Townsville, so we’re walking around in Kings Cross in our battle dress and all that, yeah. So, that was another interesting time, went to a couple of sex shows, had some beers, cause we had eight hours at the airport so everyone goes, “Oh let’s get in the cabs.” So that was it, so we went straight
in there. Took a couple of the young blokes around, the same thing, they were country boys that’d never really been to the big smoke, so a bit of adventure for everyone. But yeah, we got perceived pretty good, as we were walking around in our uniforms and that.
I’m curious to know, just with the change in society, through the ages kind of thing, like now it’s such a litigious society where everyone wants to sue for everything and...
you know, whenever you go and do anything you have to sign a
waiver, did you have anything like that, that you had to...?
Oh you got Secrecy Acts and all that, you had to sign obviously when you get in and when you get out of the army. As in what sense, in the army?
Yeah, like, was there any kind of like, liability forms and stuff like that?
What’s that? You’re a machine, you’re a cog in the machine, that’s it, you break down, someone else’s problem. As long as you’re still working in the machine you’re fine. Nah, not so much as anything to do with that, just secrecy mainly Secrecy Acts and stuff like that, and that was about it.
What’s the Secrecy Act that you have to sign?
Oh just when you get out and that, if you got information to disclose and that and stuff like that, that’s about it. I think everyone else had to sign the same thing.
And legal documents like that, that you’re signing, are people taking that fairly, is it considered sort of a heavy subject or do people sort of just sign it?
Oh yeah and no, I suppose. Depends. All this, depends on what area you’re in I suppose, depends on what you want to talk about. Yeah, that’s like, I know blokes like
from SASR and they got a bigger Secrecy Act than, cause obviously what they get to do. But yeah, same sort of level, everyone takes it sort of seriously I suppose. I don’t think I got that much to tell, that everyone doesn’t already know.
And along the way, when guys were sort of having a bad day, like what sort of things would make someone have a bad day?
Oh Christ, everything. Waking up and getting bloody hammered in PT, dragged, butt stroked in the back of the head
for not keeping up, all those sort of things give you a bad day. Just take it with a grain of salt, that’s all you do, you talk to your mates. If that doesn’t work, you go on the piss, get in a blue. But mainly yeah, you talked, lot of times you just talk to your mates. Yeah, oh, I’ve been an ear for many a people, I’ve had problems, everyone else has had problems, that’s what it is. Like you see on a lot of the movies, like, what is it, Crocodile Dundee, you go to the pub you get drunk, you tell everyone, you got no more problems, everyone knows. Same sort of
Did anyone not make it to the end?
Not make it to the end? Thinking, thinking, thinking. I think it was a bloke, Planky, I’m not sure. But I think the majority of people got through, most of the time you just pull em through if you had to. Oh I’ve had incidents now that I talk about, like I had, one of my mates, I had to stand behind him in a few of the physical tests and count, or as you say, I won’t say lie, but count for him, sort of thing, in heaves and stuff. His body’s physically not
demanding for it, but he got in the army, I had to do it twice for him, once at Kapooka, once at Singleton. But, and then when we got to over seas he’s a bloody good soldier, so you can’t take it on physical appearance what a soldier’s gonna become. So sometimes you gotta put your own integrity on line for your mates, if you got caught I probably would’ve got reprimanded, but that’s the thing you take.
And what’s ‘duties week?’
Duties week, at Kapooka? Oh
Christ, that’s crappy. Basically that’s where everyone goes through a normal roster, you take turns, it’s a laid off week I think where NCOs get a break to re-do their plans for the next lot. You go in there, I was, I done pretty well I suppose, going through Kapooka so I got front gate one. Other people got dixies, which, you go down there you just basically bash dixies for a week for the cooks, cause someone’s gotta do it, it’s cheap labour. Other ones, sweeping parade grounds,
other thing, working in messes, cleaning places, mostly just stuff like that, RPs. Regimental Police, helping them out and stuff.
What’s bashing out a dixie?
Bashing dixies? Just cleaning it, like washing up, cause that’s what it sounds like when you’re friggin cleaning em. Cause I’m sure the cooks burn everything, so you gotta scrub the hell out of everything. So that’s bashing dixies, that’s usually the crappiest thing you get given, cause you’re in there. Except for when you get a good feed cause you’re with the cooks, and you can
ruffle through everything and eat everything.
And what duty were you doing that week?
I was on the front gate, lifting the front gate up going, “Yes sir, three bags full sir, yes ma’am,” stuff like that, so you pretty well had to get dressed up most of the time.
Did they ever take you down to the RP’s jail to scare you, give you a scare?
Oh, I had to work down there at one stage too when you do guard, cause you get to do
guard, it’s classed as military guard, it’s just like you’re there as twenty-four hours things, they do it out here, but there you do a stint of that too. You rock up, you do your parade, you get presented, then an officer checks you over, checks your dress, your bearing, you march off, you march down to the jail where the RP’s were. And you basically sit there, you answer phones, and if some ruckus happens, you all jump in the back of a vehicle and race down there and sort it out, that’s basically how it happens. Is, that’s anything from bluing, civilians,
anything happening on military ground. The RP’s there with the MPs [Military Police], and they turn up, and the MPs are military police and they’ll rock up. The RP he’s, most of the time he’s just a normal NCO doing the job as RP, which is, his job is to do what the RSM tells him to do, as the regimental sergeant major, and he just directs him. But the MPs are more the military police, which are more in-depth, so you’re just there as man power, sort of thing.
How did you find the actual facilities there?
At Kapooka, oh Christ, probably, pretty crappy, but that’s normal. What do you expect, you’re only there to get in, get out, you’re not there to smell the roses, cause I think they’re all dead. Oh we had old gas heaters there, none of them bloody worked, oh it was prehistoric, but oh, didn’t phase me, only had to sleep on a bed wake up. Half the time you didn’t sleep anyway, too busy polishing brass and bloody getting your gear ready, or staying up at night trying to help blokes through certain
lessons or things they had trouble with, as your 2IC’s job, so a lot of times you didn’t get much time to even think about it anyway.
How old would you have said they were, the facilities were when you were there?
Oh I wouldn’t have a clue but I think they’d been there a while. I think they probably would have been there since Vietnam, probably even earl, later, been there a while.
Some of the instructors you said were ex Vietnam...?
Oh ones when I went through chocos were, most of the ones when I went through Kapooka weren’t,
cause obviously lot of them went out. The ones I had at chocos, I had a few guys that were Vietnam Veterans but at Kapooka most of em were new blues.
The ones that you had in chocos, did they discuss it much with you?
Nah, not really, a couple of em talked about certain things, as they do the pet talk before you go do stuff. I don’t know, just talking about booby traps and stuff. Now and then a couple of em have a bit to say but then didn’t go
into depth, or anything, just sort’a enlighten ya on the bigger picture of what you’re here and what your mission is, what do you actually have to do that it may all come to real one day so there’s no use, do the job professional. That was about it, they didn’t ramble on or anything.
And when you’re at Kapooka were there Saturday night movies?
Saturday night movies? Holy crap, where were you going? Wish I was going somewhere. What I can recall, yes we did have some
movies now and then, that was up the top in the theatre hall, most of the times it wasn’t nothing flash. That was another place where you could hide out, either there or the church. Go down there on Sunday, that got you out of scrubbing something, so a lot of people turned very religious. But yes we did have movies now and then if you wanted to go off. Most people went because it was like, “You will go or we will be cleaning something.” “Okay, we’re all going.”
That’s how it worked. “You’se all going out this weekend?” “Oh no, I haven’t got any money.” “Well here’s,” and one of your mates’d go, “well here’s ten bucks, let’s go.” otherwise you’d be staying there all weekend doing something That’s basically, they pretty well, NCOs, hinted to you pretty easily, “You will be going to the movies.” “Okay.” That way there was no-one in the lines, so there was nothing they had to look after and they could go home, worry about after hours.
How long was the training at Kapooka?
So, and seventeen weeks roughly at Singleton.
At what point did you know that you were going to infantry?
Oh all the time, I didn’t really want to go anywhere else. You do what’s like a core assessment when you’re there, you sit down, you do a test and that, and it comes out from that, and you sit down and have an interview and they go, “Ah, because of your,” bloody, “this test, you’re appropriate for these things. You’re appropriate for military police, appropriate for transport, you’re appropriate for
this.” And then they go, “What would you like to do?” And then that’s it, and they basically said I had pretty well everything I think except for military police, and a couple of me other mates, they had pretty well everything. But I said, “Oh I was pretty well just going to infantry anyway.”
Did most blokes get their choice?
Yeah the majority of blokes got it. Well most was infantry anyway and most of the blokes I joined with they all wanted to go to infantry, because they all wanted to, bloody, at that stage if there was a Gulf War. That’d be about it.
And so at the end of Kapooka was there a passing out parade?
Yeah, they all rocked up, me Mum turned up and all that sort of stuff, she come down and that, have a big shindig. All stand around and you get, bloody, basically if your platoon’s got any significance and stuff like that, couple of veterans all, they get invited, they all sit up in the v-pot, VIP [Very Important Person] area. You do your normal passing out parade, you rock up bloody, you get all spiffied up [cleaned up] and that, and you gotta get all your gear ready. Your
SLR, your frog, which is painted up to put your SLR bayonet in, you gotta paint all that, you gotta paint your main, takes forever, not like today. Today you can get dressed in about ten minutes, all the gear back down and you, it was like five days prep, just painting everything and polishing everything. And then you go down there do your parade, you go, march past, you do slow march first, then you break into quick time, go around, halt, they hand out all the things, you come out, best soldier, best shooter,
best at PT, best at this. Mum and Dad sits there and take photos of you and crying and all the girls go “whee-ee,” and stuff like that. And then you march off and then your Mum and Dad tell you how proud they are and the RSM gives you the speech, yeah, pretty well ‘pht’, and then they take it away from you. And then you bloody, that’s it and you get ready and they go, “You’re going here, here, here,” and you wake up the next morning and get given your bloody infantry badge to put on your slouch
hat, then you get your red lanyard. Then you go, “You’re going to infantry.” “No worries,” and the rest get the rest of their corps badges, what they’re after, and then they go off to where they are. And you wait for your bus, get on your bus, and they drove us to Singleton. So I went with most of the blokes that I pretty well come down with anyway, Terry, and all the other blokes coming.
And so that in between the passing out parade and the next morning, there’s a big party that night I presume?
Oh yeah, it was huge, yeah, parents come along, it was more, not like huge thing, sort of Kapooka you’re up there, you have a meal,
parents chatting with all the NCOs or whatever and they all tell crap how great your son was, and all that sort of crap. So yeah, they get along, your parents take photographs of you with all your mates and their Mums and Dads and yeah, and that was it. And then you have a few beers once everyone’s left and that and then you got pretty well get up and go, it’s a little bit more stricter down there. Once you get to Singleton and all that was a little bit different, you got drunk, rolling around.
So what did you think at the end of Kapooka?
Yeah, oh well, I’m outta
here. Didn’t think that much, said, “God damn ain’t coming back here again.” Nah, I just glad I got out with a heap of good mates. It was like anything, it was like a good ex, it was good and bad, but you gotta take the good and the bad with it, but I was just glad I went through it with a lot of good blokes, and that’s the main thing. It wouldn’t have mattered, they could’ve made me crawl through a shit pipe, I wouldn’t care, but it was pretty good cause I already had the mates that were there, so it wouldn’t have worried me.
Did you have a big sense of achievement though of having made it?
Yeah, you go, oh yeah, you feel proud, like they say, “He’s ten foot tall,’
and the hair on the back of your neck stands up, and stuff like that. You feel good cause you’ve accomplished something but that’s what it’s there for, it’s end result, reward, and your parents can see that you’re actually doing something, you’re not sitting down somewhere, friggin, doing nothing, colouring in books or something. But yeah, no you feel like you’ve accomplished something and you’re off. But you don’t really feel a lot until I suppose, cause you’ve only just been broken in, you gotta get to your corps training then, it gets a little bit harder and a lot tougher and physically and mentally.
So between Kapooka and Singleton,
did you come back to Townsville?
Nah, straight away you’re on the bus, straight to the bus, straight to Singo [Singleton].
And so tell me about that then, what happened when you arrived at Singleton?
Lot more relaxed cause obviously you’re through all that. Same sort of thing just not as crude cause obviously you’re pretty well military now aren’t you, you’ve been ‘broken,” as they say. And they put you, you’re pretty well, “Yeah, go over here, do this, put your gear here, this is your room,” show you around, not as bad, obviously, this is where you
can go, you gotta, they debrief you, go, “Oh you can have most weekends off.” We first got there we’re in holding platoon, cause obviously we had to wait for more to turn up to start a platoon, cause you can’t start straight away. So we’re basically in the broken battered area, cause holding platoon where a lot of the injured people turn up at that stage. So we’re there and you just basically for the next three weeks, you’re doing all remedial jobs, playing enemy, GD, bloody cleaning stuff, just basically
while you’re waiting, sort of thing, for the rest of your, next lot of group to turn up and make up enough platoon to go through as a platoon. So when we got there I think we had about, I think it was about twenty or thirty of us, while we had to wait for a, I think for about another twenty or so. So the next, once the next platoon marched out of Kapooka you’re looking about three weeks and then they joined up and then we became a, enough numbers to become a platoon, then we went through Singleton.
And the accommodations at Singleton, were they...?
They were crap too. They’re
all crap. Nah, not as good as they are now, they’re flash. When I was there we had those dodgy asbestosis bloody things, I’m sure of it. Bloody, oh they’re all right, like I said you sleep on it, you had some mattress, that’d been slashed up, some spring bed. You had a locker that didn’t close, had to put a lock on it, so if your gear got knocked off you’re done for insecurity, but you can put your hand through it anyway. So, yeah, normal stuff like that. And then you had, basically your lockers divide you and you had a section in one
dorm, it was basically like a dorm. And then you had your major shower and stuff you had to walk to your toilets and your showers, your big blocks over there, and then you had a big mess that you went to.
So at Kapooka where there was like four blokes to a room, was it in Singleton just one big dorm?
Yeah, well the other ones you had separate rooms as well as walls, this was basically just one big dorm, divided by your lockers back to back. Then you had the next one, and you had a bit of a partition, but it wasn’t like an actual room with a door that you lock or
anything, and that was there and then you had your lockers at the bottom of your bed and stuff, and that was about it.
So once, after that first couple of weeks when the rest of the guys came from your platoon, were you from all over Australia or was it...?
Oh pretty well, you’re all over Australia when you went to Kapooka, pretty well. You had everyone, like West Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, they’re from everywhere, depends on whenever they joined up at that stage. But yeah you’ve had multi from everywhere in the whole time, so it was in that experience cause you just talk to everyone from different areas.
And how long do you
think it took in that new platoon for you to really feel like you’re a team?
Oh didn’t take long cause you knew you had to work together, otherwise it’d just be hard, it’s like everything. It was pretty good cause we had twenty-odd blokes we were working with at Kapooka anyway so, basically and I got a fair few of them in my section, so it was pretty easy team work. And by the time you got there, you knew where you were, you were getting thrashed around, if you didn’t pull together as a team it only got harder, so you learned. Either do it the easy way or the hard
So what did corps training involve?
Corps training? Well that gets into more your infantry stuff, you just get more in-depth, it’s more bush craft, more weapons and more physical training, cause you got your basics, all your drill and that. You didn’t do a lot of drill, just a lot of your normal stuff, like a parade here and there was basically so you can do your march out parade and line up in the morning for roll call and stuff like that. But most of the time you’re pretty well doing infantry stuff, learning how to dig parapets,
how to use all your weapons, that you have to do as an infantry soldier, go through your normal contact drills, doing vehicle, working with vehicles, what else? Learning more in-depth into stuff like bush craft, navigation, put it in harbours, working as a bigger group, doing more into your defences, attacking, going through all your phases, bloody,
advance, oh, attack, defence, withdrawal, and you go through all, basically your phases of your war, which will do with the infantry.
So the weapons that you were using at Singleton, they were the same?
Pretty well. We started to get the Steyr around then, but we’re using the M-16, the SLR, we had the MAG-58, we had the M-79, which is a forty millimetre grenade launcher,
which they used in Vietnam. You didn’t really get to see the M-60 they phased that out, yeah, the Claymore, got to use that, learn how to set that up in banks and blow it up. The 66 rocket launcher, like you see on movies or whatever, so you got to try and get proficient in that. You only got to, you got to fire most of the pracs [practice], and you got about 2HE if you’re lucky, if you’re
lucky, big budget. Claymore [mine] you got the, yeah, blow one of them, set em up. What else? Ah, that’s about it. Lot of physical training, pretty well flog ya, so yeah, you’re pretty well two PT sessions a day, do one in the morning, one in the afternoon, lessons in between. Obviously get evaluated, you do your tests for your communication, cause you gotta pretty well be able to do everything, codes, the lot.
Can you tell us about some of the training in a bit more detail, like you were just talking about some of the weaponry stuff that you were doing?
Oh right, oh well obviously as an infantry soldier you basically gotta be proficient in your weaponry, cause that’s your bread and butter, or that’s your life in the end. So basically you gotta go through and you do your normal drills that you learned at Kapooka, you just do more advanced shooting, stuff like that, little bit longer ranges. Work on your grouping again, a grouping’s just a series of bullets that you fire
at one point A, and gives you a group, so you learn how to use your weapon a lot better. Then you gonna use more weapons, you gotta learn to fire the M-16 in case you get that, cause they were giving that to the scouts in that day, so you had to learn how to use that. You had to learn to use the M-79, so you had to go through your load action instant which is like all your TOETs, which is how to work it basically. And all your high IA’s and your stoppages which is basically when you go to fire it, if it stops,
what to do, instant reaction, you bloody, you gotta, what happens. So you gotta go through all these drills for all the weapons, you gotta do it for your Claymore, you gotta do it for your bloody MAG-58, you gotta learn how to clean that, you gotta learn how to strip it, so you can do it all blind folded. And that, they’re all the weaponry you need to learn. Then you gotta learn how to dig a pit, in stages, how long it’s gotta be, how deep it’s gotta be, all these sort’a things. Then you gotta learn all your communications, with how to use
codes, how to use the radio, what you do when your radio breaks, all basically which is your standard operation practise, which is your SOPs [Standard Operating Procedure], which everyone has in different areas.
What was the communication equipment that you had?
That was 77-Set, it was Vietnam too, so yeah, and they were still using that and we used that I think, yeah, we were still using it when we went to Somalia. So, and that’s how much crap we had.
We were going through a pretty bad transition and no-one was giving money to the army as usual, until anything happens, like everything, no-one does anything until something happens. What else? But that was basically there but PT was a big thing as well as weapons, and you gotta learn to work as a team again, a bigger thing. Like you get defensive weapons, your 66’s you gotta learn about that, same thing, you gotta learn what happens if it misfires.
You gotta learn how to train targets, identify targets, what can you fire it, what can’t you fire it, what’s its penetration capacity is, what you can destroy, what you can’t destroy, there’s no point shooting at something if you can’t destroy with it, cause you’re just wasting time and you’re gonna piss them off. Just basic infantry stuff, that its goes from like I said, you advance, you learn how to set up, you learn how to advance. You rock up to a battle field, you gotta learn how to advance, so you gotta advance as a group. You
fire a movement which is your attack, so you gotta attack, so you go through all your fire and movement, work as a team how to use your gunners to proficiency, where you gotta put em, You gotta, how much rounds you gotta use when your NCO tells you to use it, so you’re not using too much rounds. How to communicate with your mate, how to attack, bloody seek out and close with the enemy, kill or capture him. Then you have to move back if you’ve gotta bloody come back and withdraw, so you gotta learn how to withdraw properly in a big group, working as a
team, cause chaos is the biggest killer. And if you read any book for World War I, World War II, chaos is the biggest killer. And communication, so you gotta learn all that and then you gotta get back and then you gotta learn how to defend yourself, you gotta learn how to put wires up, so you can challenge all your enemy enter your killing ground. So it’s just pump, pump, pump, pump, of just basically information so that when you get up here and the Australian government wanna put you out somewhere you’re gonna know how to do it sort of thing, more the professionalism.
Did you find much of a difference in the instructors, between Kapooka and Singleton?
Oh obviously it’s gonna be a little bit different cause a lot of the instructors we had, we had two infantry instructors when I went through Kapooka, one medical corps, our sergeant was a caterer, and our boss was ordnance. But when you get to infantry, they’re all infantry, so it’s obviously, cause it’s more into that, I don’t know how you say, they’re more gung ho or whatever you wanna say, they’re all... A lot of them were blokes that come down there for instructional
value, in other words they’re down there instructing you from the battalions, at the same time they’re doing courses for promotion and stuff.
What about in the way that they were treating you?
Yeah, normal as anything I suppose, treat you like crap, normal. Yeah, take the good with the bad, don’t take nothing personally, it’s just a job.
What about how that was different though to Kapooka, were they...?
Yeah, they give you a little bit more rope to hang yourself with basically, as they say. Down there
it’s more structured... everything had lesson plans, all that, timings, you gotta keep to them and all that, but you had a, they give you a bit more, treated you a bit more like an adult, where at Kapooka they treated you like a two year old. You still got treated like a two old, but you had a bit more, like I said, rope.
So in that time at Singleton, what was the thing that you enjoyed the most?
Oh everything, I didn’t mind being the fittest I’d ever been, bloody going to Newcastle, running amok, chasing girls around Newcastle,
get in fights, what else? Bloody, just having a good time with me mates, like everything, work hard, play hard. We enjoyed going to work and learning stuff and doing a lot of stuff and achieving, like bettering yourself, you had challenges everyday. Like you had to better yourself in your runs, your swims, I don’t know, your push ups, your bloody timings and proficient at weapons, all this sort of stuff. And it come to that you’re
working as a machine and you’re working as a group, so you got reward as in your passing all your tests and at the same time when you had a chance to party, you had a really good bunch of blokes and you all partied hard.
Was there much time to party?
There, a lot more leeway, pretty well had most weekends off, so that was pretty good in that. You had duties week as well but, and when you weren’t on duties you jump in a cab with a group of mates and go to Newcastle. If that didn’t make you... jumping in a cab and
went to Newcastle. Yeah we had heaps of fun down there, like we had some bad moments, we had some good moments but I enjoyed going through Singleton. Like I said, had a good group of blokes.
What were some of the bad moments?
Bad moments, ‘whoo’, what else? Oh, getting bloody segregated there for a while over a certain incident that went wrong and that,
so I copped a fair bit of slack over that and got an extra week, at duties week I got dixie bashing for that.
What was the incident?
Oh basically we went to the, we were just coming back from close quarter battles down near Stockton, it is, just out from Newcastle. And we come back from close quarter ranges and we’re packing the vehicle and we had the bolts for all the weapons. And I was on back of the truck so I put all the bolt, the weapons up front with a bloody,
where I knew to put em that they’ll be safe, they were just wanting to throw em down the back there, half of them would’ve probably fallen out before we got home, and these are bolts for weapons, so I put em up the front. Basically, so all the, everything got back, and they got back and bloody, things couldn’t be found, and these bolts were missing, and that’s a big deal, a lot of people get raked over the coals for that. And so this NCOs going off his head like normally do down there and someone said, “Oh Thommo knows where they are.” Cause I said, “Yeah they’re up the front of the truck, I put em there.” So, and as the translation everything
got friggin put down wrong, I was the bad guy, in the end. So I’ve got basically crucified for it, called me a liar and everything under the sun, I just had to sit there and take it and that. Basically tried to get a lot of people friggin to, what’s it called, ‘bash me.” Which didn’t happen cause I basically just told em all they, if they can’t believe me then they might as well not believe anyone. So I got a fair bit of slack over it, but I pulled through, got out of it all right. In the end, I seen him later on
Were there any accidents along the way at Singleton?
Accidents? Not as in dangerous stuff, no-one really got anything to do with bloody... you got to do live fires and that, but not as bad as like what happened at Kapooka, with the flying fox and that. Normal thing, people falling off bloody traverse ropes on their back and just normal stuff like that. PTI’s trashing you in the ground. Doing a ten kilometre run with stretcher carrier until you feel like you’re gonna piss and shit yourself.
Besides that it was all good fun. Cause you know how far you’re gonna go to the limit, especially when you feel like that.
And was the Gulf War still on at this stage?
I believe so, I think it was, about then, cause I didn’t leave there until near on the end. Cause I got up here in the beginning of ’92, when I got to the battalion.
So in that time it at Singleton were you, most of you guys still hoping you’d get to go?
Oh pretty well, well we were pretty well
put our hoping down for infantry, 1R, So, yeah, oh we weren’t hoping, no one wishes to go there but bloody, we’re in the army anyway, why not. It’s like, what’s the point of practicing to play cricket if you don’t get to play the game, same thing. Why sit around, running round the bush doing all this crap if you never get to do it.
Interviewee: Dale Thompson Archive ID 1679 Tape 05
So, was there any sort of official finish there at Singleton, when you finished your infantry training?
Yeah, same sort of thing as going through Kapooka, family come down, same thing, girlfriend’s there and all the other stuff, big parade, same thing, march by slow, pretty well the same, and that’s about it. And then you get handed your, wherever you’re going, and 1R you get your lanyard, 1R lanyard and you get your skippy [kangaroo] badge and then that’s about it. And then you go,
have a bit of a shindig, eat together again, go to the boozer, get drunk. Then parents bloody stay around for about next couple of days cause, where was that, my Mum, she was seeing another person I was seeing down there, cause me girlfriend was down there at the time. And then basically that was it and on the plane, went to, where’d we go to then, basically I think we flew straight up, yeah, I think they just flew us straight up, went straight over to
there, then up to Townsville and that was about it. Straight into, marched into 1R, and that was that.
Was it a civvy [civilian] flight up to Townsville or...?
Yeah pretty well everything was civvy, we had an army bus from Kapooka to Singleton and that was about it, everything else was pretty well civilian.
And was it daunting or exciting marching into 1RAR?
Yeah, good I suppose. Oh it didn’t really faze me, I was sort’a knew, cause you had to go somewhere eventually so, and coming back to Townsville didn’t faze me, being from Townsville, so. And then Terry
come up here and a few other blokes, so a lot of our families were up here already, so wasn’t really daunting.
Do you know, at that time, I know at one stage the army had a thing where if you joined up, you would know that your first posting was gonna be to your home area. So like if you join in Townsville, you come back to Townsville, if you join in Brisbane you go back to Brisbane, that sort of thing?
Oh, well infantry, as soon as you put down infantry, you pretty well, you got eighty per cent chance you’re going to Townsville, cause obviously 2/4 and 1 are the biggest thing. Down there, you either, unless you want to go to para [paratrooper regiment], which most people had to be pretty well
corps enlisted to, was 3R. And then a select few when to 6 at the time, that was still operating, but most, nearly everyone else, eighty per cent of the blokes I had, we all come to Townsville. About, I think about three or four went to 2/4 and pretty well the rest of us went to 1, so it wasn’t too bad.
Was there any sort of welcome when you got here, into the regiment?
Oh yeah, rocked up, put your gear here, stopped in the transit line, take you
for a, bloody jog around base, show you where everything is, where your amenities are, where the bloody pool is, where the gym is, all that sort of stuff, where your lines are, head quarters, all that sort of stuff. And then basically just paperwork, then you were up and getting all your issued again, because every time you went down to Kapooka and Singleton, they’re all training (s...UNCLEAR), you give all your gear back, then you gotta come up here and you get, obviously you get all your stuff given back to you again.
Did you already have a pretty good idea on what the
barracks was like there?
Oh I had a rough idea, pretty well hadn’t changed in a while, since like me father was out there and sort of stuff like that, so there was no big difference. Little here and there but that was about it, except for I think the gym used to be a movie theatre, still had the same pool and all that sort of stuff.
And what was lines like here?
Oh crappy as well, but they’re doing em up now. So basically yeah, they were old as well, the same things that they were meant to be temporary lines back in, when was it, ’71
when they first come up here. So they were the same thing, they were, you had your little room, had your louvres, had to clean them all the time and a little thing, so it wasn’t that bad. And you had your separate own individual rooms so you can’t complain, so bloody, compared to some of the other places, it was a lot better I suppose.
So being the new-bees in the regiment , how did they treat you?
Oh in 1R, yeah, not too bad, you went through the normal stuff, go down the boozer, get a punch in the mouth, all that sort of
stuff, soon as you rocked up, but yeah, but besides that, wasn’t too bad. I rocked up with all pretty good blokes, we got along pretty well so there was a big lot of us, so it’s pretty hard to sort of individual us all out, or pick us all out. But yeah we had the normal stuff that comes in with going in the army and that, but normal thing, down the boozer.
And which company did you go into?
I went into Delta Company, 10 Platoon. Yeah so it wasn’t too bad, I rocked up here and got in with me secco, most of the blokes I had in one section were pretty good,
we kept pretty well all of ’em. The majority of ’em got out pretty well afterwards, but most of the blokes I had were pretty good.
And when did you, what sort of things were they doing here, at the time when you came in?
Oh, just same sort of stuff, whatever you did in, get, sort of down there you elaborated on up here. So up here you’d do your normal PT in the morning and stuff. But besides that, you did all your normal lessons and that, and a lot of times it was the same sort of stuff
that you just did it. Obviously more advanced, that’s all the training down there, up here you got your standard SOPs and that, standard operating practices and you just started working more as a team. Cause down there they, that was all training so it was by the book, up here, or doctrine as they call it, but up here they started, certain people had different influences. Didn’t change it, just done a little bit here and there to make it work better for them, so.
Did you pick up, within that platoon, did you pick up a
specialists, or within your section, pick up a specialists role?
Oh not really, I mainly went into number two scout, and I pretty well stayed there, because I had, me number one was Harry, he wasn’t a bad bloke and all that. Had a lot of skills and done a lot of other stuff, like courses to do with tracking and stuff like that. And had a turn at the gun like everyone else, and all the other positions, but pretty well all the other positions were pretty well done for... When you come up as a junior, you get put under the
wing sort’a thing, cause your number one or your gunner and that are the more experienced people. So being coming up they knew that, usually go into second position, so you’re number two scout and then you’re learning off the number one scout, cause you basically you’ve got it, what it takes to do the job but you sort’a learning off… Obviously it’s like everything, just like a TA [Teaching Assistant], you’re under someone getting their assistance, you learn off them, you watch what they do and you just sort’a get through, so you got the basic stuff to do the job, everyone has it, anywhere in the infantry section
that’s why they train you like that. But, you get up here and you sort’a get a bit selective, and you go, “Well this is what I wanna do.” “No worries,” they put you under the wing and he basically trains you sort of experience cause at that stage a lot of people were getting out, they were just changing over heaps so they were losing a lot of experience.
And at that stage you’d gone on to the Steyrs?
Yeah, pretty well, pretty well into all, like the Steyrs and that.
What’d you think of the Steyrs compared to the SLR, having you know, gone through both?
can talk to the people that are trying to sue ADI [Australian Defence Industries] then. They’re a piece of crap, personally I, they should have kept a lot of other things but they went to the new weapon, paid all the money for the technology and all that, when they should’ve just bought the original weapon that was made, instead of trying to make it themselves. But originally we probably would’ve want the Mark II, M-16 from America we could’ve bought and bolt, but, Australian Government in their wisdom... so you just gotta take the good with the bad. But there’s no way it was a better weapon than the
SLR and all that.
So when you went field up here, where would you go mainly?
Oh mainly up to High Range and that, Tulley for your, like your close quarter battle training up there. Cowley Beach, now and then, a lot of times there were more courses up there, like you go up and do a six course and things like that. Then you go down to Shoalwater Bay where you do a lot of more of ya, like your landing stuff where you work with the navy and that with your large craft
landings and bloody mechanicals. Like all your water transport blokes, like the HMAS Tobruk, the ‘Love Boat’. You got to work with them mainly down there, you do a lot of your landings, and then bloody go through all your tasking down there. High Range, mainly worked with all the APCs, your anti personnel carriers, which place, they just take you round. And Tully, there’s Tully, you go up there and get rained on for two weeks straight and get friggin beaten by diazes [?] and
all that normal stuff that goes with it, go through your booby trap lanes and all that sort of stuff.
And what part of being on Townsville did you enjoy the most?
Oh just, from being from here, I suppose it didn’t matter. See I didn’t mind sort’a laid back attitude up here, but a lot of blokes that come from places like Melbourne and Sydney and all that, oh God, they hated it, like they thought it was like country hick town and oh, you couldn’t get anything, anywhere, “Where’s the trams? Where’s this stuff?” They sort’a,
‘Oh crap, this place is like living out in the carts.” And I said, “Oh it’s not too bad once you get used to it.” But yeah, they couldn’t sort of appreciate Townsville was.
You talk ’em round?
Oh they got into it once they friggin, normal things, started realising they could go to places like Airlie Beach, Cairns and you don’t have to just stay in Townsville, you got Charters Towers, Maggie Island, go out to the reef. There’s a lot more there than just sitting around and stuff, and you didn’t have to put up with all that hustle and bustle like you did in Sydney and Melbourne and places like
that, like to get a cab wasn’t a big deal. So it wasn’t too bad, most of em sort of come around.
With all the other training you were just talking about, did you do helicopter flying as well?
Oh yeah, you do a lot of that as well, what they call, what’s it called again, oh, normal aero week or whatever you wanna call. Only thing with that, I think I walked more than I got in a helicopter, they fly you out there and then you gotta walk home, oh it was sort of false pretences. It’ll give you a, it’s basically more for air famil [familiarisation] as they call it. Get in,
so you learn how to get in and out of Black Hawks and stuff like that, same as with APCs you have like famil. weeks, where you basically work with APCs and all that, so you get to know how to work with that. All the cav. blokes, so they know how to work with infantry and we know how to work to them, with their good and their bad and how they like to operate. Same with the helicopters, so the new blokes know how to get in and out, practise that sort of stuff.
How did your social life change as far as Townsville was concerned, now that you’re in the army?
obviously didn’t hang around with a lot of, more I suppose, my civilian mates, moved away and started other life sort of thing, and obviously in the army I was more orientated around that. It changed, you don’t realise when you get in the army, and then it sort of becomes your life, because you got call outs, you’re ODF [Operational Deployment Force], so you’ve gone from, like, you can plan a lot of stuff, but when you got in the army up here, it was hard to plan a lot of stuff. Cause all of a sudden you get called back and have to go, do a tasking and
stuff like that, then you got all these tests you gotta complete out, so. And then certain holidays you’re on recall notices and stuff for ODF’s, so you couldn’t go any further than Airlie Beach or Cairns and places like that, so it was a little bit hard in that way. But then you started to realise it was, sort’a, turns around to your life, cause that’s what it was, when they called you to be there, sort of thing.
Can you explain the concept of ODF to people that wouldn’t know?
Operational Deployment Force, I had to remember that,
the terminology’s are fading on me. But yeah, basically it’s just ready reaction force, it’s basically, obviously if anything happens like, I don’t know, Solomon Islands, Timor, all those sort of things, they need a force that’s gonna be close and ready to go. And basically that’s what it is, you take, we take turns with 2R and 1R, and you just take turns at being ODF. So the government turns around and goes, “Oh, Christ, there’s something happened in the Solomon Islands,” and most of, all your blokes
are pretty well in what they class as, I think it’s four hours notice, and they all get back here, debrief and they can send em away straight away.
How often did you find yourself going on alert to leave somewhere and just...?
Oh they had tests all the time, and then you get in Hercs and Caribous and fly around for eight hours or something and just land somewhere and get out, and do a tasking, like take a hill or something like that, which comes down in orders, and then you just go home or, or once you finished that, but they were doing it
all the time.
Did blokes enjoy it or give em the shits?
Oh give you the shits. But it was part and parcel, if you had a half decent boss, you know most of the time that it was, they call you out it was just part of the test, had to be done, part of your job. Keep all the brass at the top all happy that you can get into work in time, with all your undies and your pants on, and that you’re able to get all your gear and all that out there. A lot of times it was more logistics, than it was the actual us tested on the ground. Lot of times it was just whether
the logistics side of the army could pick up and move that many and get em to the area where they needed em. It wasn’t, a lot of time you got there and you done a basic task, or you just sat around the air field for a couple of hours and all the hierarchy come around and check that you had everything. You had your water, you had all, CHQ [Command Headquarters] had everything, all that sort of stuff logistically, and that was it. And most of the time you got back on and flew home, so a lot of times, yeah, it was done a fair bit,
especially during your period of time.
What was your impression of the level of training that you were doing up here?
Oh well to get you for conventional warfare and all that was a high level. The Australian soldiers have been pretty well rated all over the world as pretty good soldiers, compared to like their professionalism and that, and that’s through nearly all conflicts. We pretty well had a high standard to sort of keep up, but yeah most of us felt that we were pretty well trained to do what we had to do
sort of thing, if we were asked to do it.
What about the equipment levels of the Australian Army at that time?
Ooh Jeez, hit a raw nerve there. They were shit. And that’s the good version of it. A lot of the stuff, oh, where can you start? You couldn’t, you just keep going until the end. But, like everything, Australian soldiers just improvise, overcome and adapt. So you can sit here all day and pick out on stuff and what they should’ve done and what they shouldn’t have done, but in the end, when you get down to the soldier on the ground,
that’s all political things, as long as you’re on the ground you get your job. We had lots of gritties, to do with packs, webbing, weapons, oh, you name it. Just night vision goggles that was out of date and oh, you name it, it was there but you still had to do the job in the end so there’s no point sitting around whinging, cause it wasn’t gonna change over night. Only seems to change after friggin they go in a few more conflicts and a few more people go in And the, like the Australian
public and all that realise that you need money to do this, especially in the warfare of this day and age.
Cause you were telling me earlier on, I think off camera that your dad actually was part of the process when they were developing the cams and that sort of thing?
Oh yeah he, years ago when they were first going through the development of a lotta, he used to bring home all the trial cams and stuff like that when he was in 2/4. And we used to get to see a lot of it but yeah, he used to like bring em home, show em to us, put ’em on, but it was more of a trial phase like
everything the army goes through, like they got now. Some stage I think some of the soldiers out there now got six or seven pair of boots, because they been going through trial boots, and we trialled boots in certain places too, trialled this, we trialled that. But a lot of it I think the Australian Government need to realise that there’s already good stuff out there, and they should just go out and buy it, instead of trying to make it. Cause that’s what they do in a lot of special forces, they just get out the credit card and go buy it, cause it’s already there and it’s already good. So,
And what was your normal leave?
Normal leave was usually about four or six weeks at Christmas and you had about two weeks or so in the middle. But it wasn’t too bad, and if you weren’t doing much, you’d probably have a week around the school holidays, but most of the time it wasn’t too bad. Depending on, obviously call out, all the other stuff that goes with it. And if you wanted to you could work, re-do your details and stuff, and then take your holidays a little later,
depending on the program and that where they release ya and stuff.
When you first went into the regiment, were you getting all the crappy jobs, like details and that sort of thing?
Oh yeah, course you do, you get the crappy guards, you rock up and one of the senior soldiers decides he want to go to a wedding or like oh, I don’t know, you cop it, you cop it sort of thing, that’s how it worked. Like they go through the list, you all turned up and basically the senior dude just got picked off, taken off and you’re put on, and that was about day
one you got there. So you got all the guards and oh yeah, you take that with a grain of salt. I suppose a lot of people have been there a while, and you used to learn, soon as you got off guard, you raced in, you got changed, and if you could you sculled a beer and you raced off. Cause guaranteed if someone didn’t turn up to guard, and you’re in that lines, bloody, the BOS [Battlefield Operating System] and all that battalion and all his sergeant would come through, and if you were still there and dressed, you’d be nabbed and you’d down there again. So you learned real quick, say, “I’m outta here.”
So yeah, you copped that, that’s normal stuff like you get all the crappy duties on duty week, and you go through a cycle, but it’s normal.
Did you do adventure training at all?
A lot of that they started turning around it’s called, oh, I don’t know bondage and all, whatever you wanna call it, getting together with men, chewin’ chewy [chewing gum] together. But yeah adventure training, a lot of that we didn’t see a lot of that in infantry eh. Now and then they used to do white water raft and
like the NCOs and the corporals got together with the warrant officers and that, and they’ll do a bit of white water rafting, getting together, you know, bond like men and all this sort of stuff. But the majority of times we didn’t get to do a lot of that adventure training, where you, pretty well doing most of, to do with their job and that, and doing courses.
How regimented was barracks life?
Oh it was pretty laid, it was laid back out of all of them, cause there was a lot more, like I said, even more rope to hang yourself with. You’re
treated more like adult even though they still treated you like a child, but they give you more rope. So it’s like, “Yeah, you can go out, do this, but you don’t turn up you’ll be going to jail.” That’s basically, similar, they wouldn’t check on ya, they don’t, big thing, you turn up to guard and if you gear wasn’t up to standard, you copped it. No-one come round and sort of sat there nit-picking at you like they did at all the other places. Because it was required of you, you were a soldier, you’re meant to be professional, if you didn’t know the standard you copped the friggin
consequences and that was it. And most of the time, they just take a weekend off yer, or something like that, or give you an extra two guards, so that way you can do some more ironing.
What was food like at the barracks?
Yeah, wasn’t too bad. When we first got there, normal army food was the typical friggin eggs, bacon, baked beans, normal stuff. In the last couple of years in the army, they started bring in more fruits and salads and stuff which is good to see. But yeah, the normal hearty food, piece of
steak and friggin, all the cooks in there bashing it. We call them fitter and turners, fit it in and turn it to shit. But yeah, most of the time they fed us really good, can’t complain.
So when you got leave, where would you go?
Townsville, oh crikey, wouldn’t have to go far would I? I’d just go, now and then, I’d just go to Mount Isa, bloody go down to Airlie Beach], Cairns with a mate, Maggie Island [Magnetic Island], or just hang around
town. Cause being a lot of family here and a lot of other friends, I didn’t really have to go places, and a couple of me other friends, most of them all lived in Townsville too, so I didn’t really have to travel far. Couple of times I went to like, places like Tamworth where my mate was and Brisbane and stuff like that, rode me bike.
And what’s the typical working week for a soldier?
Oh depends on what you’re up to. Normal when you rock, you rock up, you gotta get there, well depending on, you got first parade
like at phoo, seven o'clock, so usually you have to be there at six to help clean the lines and stuff. So you’re in there doing the normal duties like, I don’t know, cleaning out the SALs [Showers and Latrines], and bloody, where the toilets and the showers and all that are, same thing as when you went through all the other places, Kapooka and Singleton. You had set tasks, like your section might be toilets and latrines, showers and latrines and the other ones could be picking the rubbish up, emu bobbing [picking rubbish up], and mopping the floors. And the other ones are
bloody cleaning out offices and rubbish and whatever else was tasked, and you just rotated with that, so you had to come in early to do that. Then your 2IC inspected that, and then you go to first parade once that was done. Then you got your roll call to make sure no-one was sick, lazy, or anything like that. And that was when you go, “Oh look I’m, I’ve got an ankle problem,” or “I’m sick,” or “I got the flu,” and then you go to the RAP [Regimental Aid Post], you sign in the RAP book, that’s your regimental aid post. And basically
from there then you run off, so the people that had injuries stayed there and done something in the lines, clean up, and the rest went out and done PT. You go do PT for an hour or so, then you come back, have a shower, bloody, once you had breakfast, shower, then you did basically all your lessons. You started off with lessons there and then lessons in the afternoon. And about three thirty, four o'clock in the afternoon, you sit around the tree of knowledge, which is usually the
tree of shade, out the front of the CHQ, and you all just sit around there, waiting for the boss to come down, if there was anything to come down to the information chain. In other words he rocks up and goes, “Well this is what’s happening tomorrow,” cause they let you know the day before usually, try to give you as much bloody information as soon as possible. And they’ll go, “this is what’s happening tomorrow,” and that way you either know to turn up in PT gear, or you turn up in your stuff ready to go bush. So that was pretty right and then you knocked off, about four o'clock usually,
then you went straight to the boozer.
What was your sporting life like here?
Oh, like out in civvy street [civilian life], it didn’t exist, it was just too hard. It was too, now and then in the army, you could play a bit of soccer, rugby, friggin Aussie Rules, think you most play cricket, that was more in the sergeants and officers area. But yeah, you didn’t get much outside and if you did it was hard to commit because any time suddenly you just went bush, so... A lot of the
civilian teams, they liked the army cause they had good players and stuff like that but it was hard to commit, cause sometimes when the grand final come up, everyone was gone, so you couldn’t put a team on or yeah, so it was pretty hard. You win all the games and get to the grand final, half the army aren’t there so you lose, so, how’s that work? So a lot of them, a lot of blokes didn’t get too much in that civilian side of it, cause it was just too hard to manage.
So would you have like an afternoon a week where it was, everyone was playing sports?
Oh yeah you used to have, like when you got up
to there, there was more sporties, that was usually every Thursday, same thing, you’d rock up and you’d have designated sports. Like bloody, I don’t know, you rocked up, it’s PT here and nearly most of the day, “You’re playing rugby.” “No worries, we’re playing 2R today”, and the rugby team’ll play there and if you weren’t playing a sport then you go watch and support. So you had your AFL, rugby, you had your cricket, you had boxing training, if you wanted to go to that, soccer,
oh, pretty well heaps of stuff, even golf in there somewhere. But yeah, if you wanted to do a sport, but if you weren’t sports inclined or whatever, you just come, you just went along and support it anyway.
Some of the blokes we’ve spoken to have suggested that if you’re good at sports, helps your army career?
Yeah, when I first got in there, yes I’d say that, there was a lot of that, orientated about that. But yeah, it all comes around, what goes around comes around. Lot of them that were good at that, sometimes weren’t as good as, at
their job. But yeah, oh yeah, there was a lot of boys club in there with rank structure, if you were pretty good at rugby it usually helped out a little bit in...It’s like everything in the world, if you’re in the boys club then obviously you’re gonna push through a little bit more, cause your name’s gonna come up a lot more.
And was there one sport more than any others that...?
Oh rugby’s always been a pretty well army thing. They pretty well go down from there, you got rugby, AFL, then probably soccer, cricket or cricket, soccer. But it’s usually rugby’s
always been the big thing.
That’s rugby union?
Did they ever play rugby league?
Ah, only cause it’s professional. Basically I don’t know, some legality thing of it, but it was usually always union, cause it’s always been pretty well union I think. Mainly cause I think all the officers that started or whatever, used to go to all the up and study schools, so that’s where it probably all started.
What were your officers like?
Oh, yeah, I think they should go back to the old
days, I suppose, where a lot of them should go through the rank structure first, and then look at getting promoted and stuff. Cause we’ve had cases where blokes who’ve rocked up, we had one instance we had one officer he rocked up, he was like about nineteen or twenty, and we had blokes in our platoon were like twenty-five, and he was trying to tell em how to manage their money and their life. And he, so it was a bit hard, he had no experience in life, like fair enough, and yeah, just a lot of that, I think some of them should find their way from
the ground up before they actually get in to the lime light. It’s not as easy as it is to try and... it’s not, you can command, a lot of things is commanding, but you also gotta get the respect of your soldiers, and a lot of them it was hard, cause they put on the wrong foot. Cause they come out, come out of RMC [Royal Military College] and ADFA [Australian Defence Force Academy] with this, “I know everything,” cause it’s in the doctrine, and that doesn’t go down well in a lot of places, because you’re dealing with a lot of other soldiers, cause you gotta get the respect of your men.
What about NCOs?
NCOs are the same thing, most of them on average had been there six, seven years and they were pretty good and pretty well up to speed with everything. Most of them knew what they were doing and they were there moving through the rank structure. At that stage the rank structure, when I got up here was pretty slow, I think you’d have to wait for someone to drop dead before you’re looking at getting promoted. It was, but yeah, most of the NCOs I had at the time were all pretty well ‘smecked on’.
And what were your feelings towards promotion?
Oh me, I didn’t really join the army for that, sort of thing, at that stage. Cause I’d only just got there, you don’t think about that stuff, you just try and get through. Cause you gotta get through and basically not prove yourself to everyone but you still gotta get the respect of all the other people, that they’re confident that you can work as a team and if they had to be deployed somewhere, they can rely on you to do stuff. Like in my job, like setting up Claymores and things like that, like mightn’t seem like much but they,
they’ve gotta trust you and have respect for you that you’re gonna go out there and do a proper job, that you don’t turn around and blow yourself up and blow them up. So you had to get that way too, so it wasn’t, you’re more worried about trying to get yourself into the team and worrying about that sort of stuff, especially at that stage.
A lot of blokes we’ve spoken to also suggested that corporal’s probably about the hardest job in the army?
Corporal’s are the army, that’s the facts. Bloody officers’ll get to where you gotta fight the war and a corporals and the men’ll
fight it on the ground, that’s how it is, just plain and simple. But it’s the best job in the army.
Can you tell us about when you went home for leave, just before you were called up to go to Somalia?
Basically I went for a trip back to West Australia and I seen me Dad’s Dad, and I was over there. And basically, yeah, I was sitting around, and watching the news, cause I was getting ready to, I think I was getting, that week to get dressed up to play Santa Clause for all the
kids over there. And yeah, me granddad goes, “Oh, I think you better come in here Dale.” So, and then he’s watching the TV and they were talking about bloody Somalia and UN [United Nations] and all this sort of stuff. And I’m going, “Oh yeah, okay.” And basically turned around and then they started talking about they’d probably, 1R’d be recalled to do such and such and such, so I heard it on there. So I phoned up one of my mates, Sorenson, that was in West Australia at the same time and he’d already had his phone call and stuff and then
I said, “Oh, well I’ll phone another mate,” and he had his, he was, got his phone call as well. So I thought, “I’ll do the right thing and I rung up,” and there’s, so I got through to the hot line. And they were talking about, “Yep, no worries,” such and such. “You’ve been re-called, you’re, as soon as possible, see about getting a plane ticket, you gotta get back within a certain amount of days, cause you’ve been recalled to go on operations.” So I turned around anyway, doing the normal stuff, granddad was there and that. So I rang up
bloody Qantas, and cause I had to get me ticket back, obviously I wasn’t due to go for another two or three weeks. And I rang up Qantas and I said, “Oh, blah, blah, blah, oh I’m such and such soldier in Townsville, I’ve been re-called to go back, to go on operations.” And they’re all like “Oh well you’ll have to wait, you’ll have to pay more money,” and all this. And I thought, “Oh yeah, no worries, that sounds like the normal...” So I said, put the phone down, I talked to me granddad and that, and he goes, “Anyone in Towns, ah, like in Perth?” And I said, “Oh stuff this, I’ll just ring up recruiting,”
cause there’ll be a warrant officer there and they’re a pretty grumpy old mob, they’ll get stuff done. And so I said, “Oh look I’m, this is,” I’ve rung up and I’ve got some warrant... I’ve said, “is this recruiting in Perth?” And they said, “Yes it is.” And I said, “Well can I speak to your warrant officer in charge there of recruiting.” And said, “What’s it reference?” So I told the lady there, she put me on, so I had a chat to him and all that and he was pretty hyped up and stuff. So he pretty well got on the phone, talked to bloody Qantas and their mob and phoned me back about ten minutes later and said, “Just take it
down there and get your ticket.” “No worries,” “too easy Campesi” [easy]. So and that was about it, so.
Did army normally look after all your movements?
Yeah pretty well. You basically tell em sort of where you want to go and they just turn around and get your tickets for you and stuff, and you go there and return, they get you a return ticket obviously, and the rest from there is your problem. Get you A to B, after that you move around yourself.
Do you know what granddad thought of you being in the army?
Oh he didn’t mind, it was like anything, him being an air force
bloke in the Pommy [English] army, probably infantry’s a bit different but yeah, he didn’t mind, like Dad was in there. I don’t think it really fazed him, sort of thing, he was pretty good about it. We had a bit of trouble, like, getting through the line up and all that at the airport, but they sorted that out as well, so I got through and I finally got home, so that wasn’t too bad.
And what was the buzz once you got back here?
Oh pretty well people running round like blue arsed ticks again. Bloody, everyone was pretty
well, got back, got in and they were starting to do their scenario practicing and stuff like that. Cause obviously conventional warfare, we were going more into low level ops, cause it’s humanitarian aid, so we’re over there doing Operation Solace and all that. So it wasn’t so much in as seek out, and close with the enemy and kill and capturing and stuff like that. It was more of, “Oh we’ve gotta go over there and protect food distribution points, set up perimeters
and basically get the food that is given and donated by the governments through the non government organisations, protect them, protect the food, and get it out to the people that need the food before the bad guys or the bandits decide they want to come in and take the food.” So it was a whole different scenario to sort’a... We were doing stuff to do with it but it was like a different kettle, you had to start thinking in different degrees.
It wasn’t like they’re gonna be walking around with uniforms on, it’s not gonna be like they’re walking around, there’s gonna be a front line, there’s no front line. It’s basically gonna be patrolling through a city in the back of a vehicle and everyone was potentially hostile. You had your rules of engagement, your ROEs [Rules of Engagement], so you had your red and your yellow cards, so you had to abide by them. Then we had to do a lot of legal, cause they had to brief us legally on what, who we can basically shoot and who we can’t,
and why we can do it and why we can’t. And then we basically doing mock up scenarios to do that sort of stuff with technical vehicles, doing distribution points, and all this stuff. A lot of stuff we were just going off a lot of stuff out of pans and doctrines to do with, what is it, more the British stuff, but a lot of times we were, we weren’t fumbling, we were just, it was a new area. We’d done a little bit on it but this
obviously a lot different now, you’re doing it for real. So the whole time we’re over there, when we went over there, you were trolling a lot of stuff, you were testing and trolling stuff, stuff was working, stuff was failing, and stuff was failing and failing and failing. But yeah, it worked out in the end but it’s like everything, adapt, overcome, that’s all you could do, you couldn’t sit there and whinge and bitch about it. You basically get the job done the best you could with the tools they gave you, sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn’t.
Can you explain to us exactly what the rules of engagement
Rules of engagement? I haven’t got a red and a yellow card. Basically if your life’s threatened you can shoot em, point a weapon at you, you can shoot em. Besides that you go down the levels, it’s basically if someone’s there, you gotta give em warning, then you give em warning shot. But pretty well cut and simple is, if you feel your life’s in danger or who your protection, then you can you fire, basically that’s about it. Keep it pretty simple for infantry, we’re not the legal beagles, we’re just there to keep,
get me my mate home. After that, the rest is up to them.
And who briefed you on all the sort’a scenarios?
Went through, basically all the scenarios and all that were written out by the Australian bloody army legal mob, they went through, briefed us all, and gave us basic run downs on certain levels, like things happen. Like if someone come up and threw a brick at ya or things like that so, and knives and whatever, you go to, basically if someone pulled a knife on ya, and they were within
five metres and able to kill you, and they lunge, that’s it, you’re able to shoot em straight away. Weapon, straight away, pretty well if they point it at ya, cause technically you can’t shoot em as they’re running away. There’s about a million and one scenario’s so they can only teach you so much, and they can only give you the base, the rest, you gotta evaluate like that on the ground so, that was the hardest part.
And did you have to fill out a will?
A will? Yeah, filled out one of those. Had to fill out one of those things to vote too,
postal vote. So basically yeah, wills are all normal, norm. You gotta expect that, you don’t join the army to sit around on cushions in a pillow factory so, you gotta expect that comes hand in hand.
And what about packing up gear that you had to take with you?
Yeah, you went through your normal stuff, carried your stuff, had your five day rations, all your normal gear, had to pack your room up in case it obviously went longer and then they had to ship people in. Cause obviously once you bloody go or whatever and they gotta
ship more people in then they’ve gotta, all your gear’s gotta be pretty packed away so can be put into storage and if you come back or you don’t then it can be found and given to your next of kin. So, you went through all that normal procedure that the army sets in place, all normal stuff for them.
So what was the last two weeks like before you left?
Oh yeah, pretty hectic I suppose, people saying goodbye, all the politicians rocking up, Jeez that was about, exciting. So they’re all coming down, shaking hands, kissing babies and doing whatever they want to do, telling you that you’re
doing the right thing for the world and all this sort of stuff, and yeah, basically just getting ready.
How did the blokes react to all that sort of political media circus?
Like I said, don’t worry about it, that’s their job. They do all that later on, we just gotta get there and do the job. It’s like a grave yard digger, someone’s got to do it. Get to the thing and then you get told to do it, and lot of times politically that’s their problem later on.
And what about sort of, outside of the army, the personal
sort of tying up loose ends and things?
Yeah that was pretty easy, it didn’t matter, I usually just left everything with me Mum, she pretty well sorted all that stuff out, there’s not much else I could do. Pretty well at that stage I was single and all that so it wasn’t a big deal, I just had to pack up me gear, give me wallet and me stuff to me Mum, that was about it, pretty well simple after that.
And how did you feel about going away to Somalia?
Oh excited, fear, excited, same thing as like everyone else that went there. Excited, fear.
And what’d your dad say to you?
Oh yeah, just look after yourself and look after your mate. So that’s about it.
And did you get any sort of leave before you went?
Oh not really, basically because we’d just come off leave and that. It was pretty well, we didn’t have much, basically we got back just after Christmas and we went early Feb., the advance party I think went in Jan, so two to three weeks, you can’t really have much time to sit around and have a drink.
There was a lot of stuff to do and a lot of stuff to go through and a lotta, cause you had to go out and re-zero weapons, you had to get stuff firing, stuff again to get famil back on, all that sort of stuff had to be done and go through, make sure everything’s ready to go. Then you got loading, bloody, the HMAS Tobruk, and then you got planes to be loaded and you got the advance party going and stuff like that, so there wasn’t
much time really to sit down.
How’d they pick blokes for the advance party?
A lot of times it was all your 2IC’s and that of most sections, because they’re, a lot of them are administration, you got your NCOs, your 2IC’s obviously second in command, and his job’s, a lot of times more the bullets and beans and a lot of the sergeants are the same, so most of the officers and the corporals stayed with us. A lot of the 2IC’s and the sergeants went over, went over there, famil, went around,
found out what the go was, all that sort of stuff, sorted out logistically how we’re gonna get on the ground and that and then we all moved in as like fighting force. So they were pretty well on ground sorting out where we gonna eat, where we gonna sleep, who’s gonna do this, where can we go the toilet, where’s our vehicles, where’s the aeroplanes gonna land, all that sort’a stuff was pretty well in place, where we gonna get our ammunition, and then we rocked up.
And did they give you a date, you’re leaving on this date?
Oh pretty well, yeah all the politicians stand up for that
again. And basically yeah, and then we went, got on the planes, got a civilian plane, they flew us and basically that. A lot of the air hostesses were all civilian volunteers and all that, some of them were ex bloody Vietnam Veterans, and all that sort of stuff. So on the plane it was very interesting, landing at Mogadishu in a big white plane, but...
And they’d volunteered to do that?
Yeah, basically, cause they knew it could be a high risk factor, basically, white plane landing in a hostile area.
Interviewee: Dale Thompson Archive ID 1679 Tape 06
In that year when you came back to Townsville before you got posted to Somalia, had you done any work that would prepare you for it in terms of like things out in civilian life, like, you know, storm recovery or...?
Oh a lot of that stuff, we were on call for a lot of those sort of things but nah, not really. Complete, it’s like everything, you can train as much as you want, like
I say, play a game of cricket, till you get out there and get the real nerves of being in the real stuff, it doesn’t matter. You get a lot of training, the training’s there basically, everyone’s gonna react different, everyone does react different. But the training’s there so when all the shit hits the fan it becomes a natural reaction, that’s what a lot of the training is. Same as when you run down, crawl, aim, reserve, fire, it’s all a reaction, so when the shit hits the fan you just, your body naturally does it, cause you keep doing it, repetitive. Repetitive, repetitive, repetitive.
So and that’s what the scenarios and stuff are over, just to get the scenarios into your head to sort of visualise what would happen, sort of thing, and then you can understand legally where you can, you can’t step over the line. And it was a lot harder than we actually realised, cause when you got there, it was a lot harder. Like, because a lot of times technically they weren’t just pointing a weapon at, a lot of times they were just holding a weapon, a lot of times they were laughing at you and doing a lot
of other things, cause they knew, like they knew what degree you could go to and stuff. So, yeah, a lot of times the papers there, it’s not as good as being out there.
How long was it from the time that you came back to Townsville to the time that you actually left, like when you got called back specifically?
Oh about, not even a year and a half, or a year.
But when you got called back from your leave?
Yeah, would’ve been just under a year. Cause I got up here early ’92 once I got out of training and that, and I got recalled
phoow, December ninety-bloody-two. Cause ’93, Feb to May as well in that.
So when you got called back from Perth though, how long was it from the time that you got back from that leave in Perth to the time you actually went to Somalia?
Oh Christ, maybe four weeks, if that, I reckon, yeah would’ve been. Wouldn’t have been much more.
What personal effects did you take with you?
I take with me? One tape, that crappy Lenny Kravitz [singer] song on it, had to get me Mum to send me some more cause I was sick of listening to it, and a book. I took, what was it, oh God, what was it, oh, what’s that, I can’t even think, Patriot Games, no, one of those ones. Oh, I can’t think of the first one, they made the movie out of it anyway, I
took that. That’s about it, I think I didn’t take much else.
And in that couple of weeks training right before you left, what were they, what did you learn about Somalia?
Basically they gave us books, basically with basic phrases for Somalia and all that. It was hard, the same thing they gave us all these books for a lot of the area, it was all like Swahili, and wherever you went to different borders, closer to different borders of different other
countries, different things meant different things, so that was useful but when you got on the ground, you still had to improvise. Basically you got a little pink book, went through traditions, don’t shake with the left hand, cause they wipe their bum with their left hand, friggin, wave with your right hand. The customs, basically so you don’t get offended, cause what men and women do are different.
Do you remember what some of those things were?
Oh God. Oh women
are more of the work horse over there and the men have got a different stature and they’re bread winners, they don’t drink, they drink more tea and that. Just a lot different sort of customs and that, the way they treat their younger women, and marriage is off, and their respect for life is sometimes a little bit different from ours in the western world. We appreciate a lot more, they appreciate pretty
well nothing, and they take nothing for granted, so it was a lot harder in that way. You got this book, you got these things they were telling us about the people, the population, what they used to be was no good when we got there, was completely nothing like it. They had universities, they had ag [agricultural] colleges, they had everything, they just, it total, that was it, basically it was clans fighting against clans to hold food, to hold territory, and that was it. And
to them to kill a couple of hundred people to keep it, then that didn’t matter to them. And it just total lawless, so it was hard, they’d give you these books and you’d try and go through the basic customs but a lot of times, the whole time we’re there, it was pretty well chaos, as in anarchy.
And had they forewarned you to expect that?
Oh well you had to. You sort’a did, well they said that basically the whole place is in chaos and that’s why we’re
getting sent there. We’re sent there to try and establish some sort of form, some sort of bloody law and order, and trying to get the food out so they can get it to people, so all the convoys stopped getting ambushed, and cause to them food is power. And basically that was it, they kept getting, all these people kept landing aeroplanes, all the NGOs [Non Government Organisations] and governments, were landing on air fields but all the bad war lords and all that basically took over and started charging the government to land on
the air fields, and turned around and were basically, they’re the ones probably ambushing half of their friggin food convoys. So that was what we’re there to, form a base so they could land in, in peace, distribute the food, then go out and provide security around the town, so we had to do foot patrols. And then basically go out to the towns and protect all the NGOs and basically get food to people.
Can you just explain what an NGO is?
A non government organisation, like CAREs [Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere – charity organisation],
and you got all the other countries, like we got CARE Australia and that, you got, bloody, Red Cross was there. Oh, can’t pronounce half the islands but you got, there was German, French, they’re all there in their same sort of thing as ours and they’re all there going, trying to give humanitarian aid, and we’re there to help them and protect them so they can do their job as well. But our main task was humanitarian aid and food distribution. To get the food out to the people that actually needed it before the war
lords and all the other people come in and tried to get it, and basically use it as a bargaining chip. So, cause they’ll sell it or, same with water and stuff.
Obviously in all the training that you did and just, you know, it’s ingrained in most of us in Australia fairly young about the Anzac tradition. Going over on a peace keeping mission like that, how did that for you personally feel, like it was going to be part of the Anzac tradition?
Yeah you’re still there, you’re still wearing the uniform,
you still got a job to do. Doesn’t mean, you got to put in perspective that I can’t see, like, Australians going to a big thing even though the Gulf War started up again and all this sort of stuff, but at that stage, that was how it was. It was like, low level ops is so much harder, the Americans already went in and they couldn’t handle a lot of it, cause, I don’t know why, they’re a big machine, and they like to just get fired at and kick butt. But when it gets down to
a bit of PR [Public Relations] and a bit of getting the job done and that, unless people are shooting at em and blowing em up and stuff like that, and they can blow everyone up, it’s a lot harder for em, they find it a little bit harder. And we didn’t find it hard but like I said, ‘adapt and overcome.” Because you get trained with all these principals, where the enemy is, who they are and stuff, and these people they were all firing at ya and that were Joe Bloggs wearing the same outfit that the next bloke was. And some were women, some were children and it was,
you had no knowing, so it was harder in that way.
So was there a big goodbye with the family before you left?
Yeah, I said goodbye, I don’t get over the top over it. I try not to get too sentimental. But yeah, I said bye to Mum, Dad, Dad was out at work, said bye to me brothers, and they just said, “Yeah, go do your job,” that’s basically it, not much more they can say. I chose the career.
Did you have any idea how long you were gonna be there for?
Not at that point in stage, I was just worried getting over there and
doing the job. Like, period of time, they started putting in that we might be there for a short period or a long period, at one stage they were talking about a longer period, so you just go with the flow. You just, when you’re over there, day by day, that’s pretty well the only way you do it, you don’t plan too much ahead, cause you don’t know what’s around the corner.
So tell us... what was the flight over like?
Nah, it wasn’t too bad, bloody, most of the blokes were pretty
good, sit on the plane, slept a fair bit, that was about it, so it wasn’t too bad.
And obviously you’re in uniform?
Yes. Basically had our gear, all our weapons were wrapped in bubble wrap in the bottom, and all the other stuff was pretty well put on crates and wrapped up, so when we got off there at Mogadishu airport, basically had to get all our gear. Got off, had our little Qantas bags with us, down, got on the back of a US [United States] truck,
took us over to where we were gonna be sleeping for the night, or for that bloody week until we moved out. Basically, yeah, got there, got to, got our packs, cut our bloody weapons out of bubble wrap and stuff like that, got issued ammo [ammunition] and all that stuff. But supposedly the Mogadishu airport was pretty secure.
So when the plane first touched down in Mogadishu and you got off to get on that US truck, what’d you think?
I didn’t have a weapon, pretty well about it. Yeah, just get told, get off, get on that truck, go get your gear. Look around.
What was the climate and surrounding like?
Hot, God-damn hot. Hostile.
People, bloody perimeter, bloody, people from all different forces around. You had, what was it, Canadians, Pakistanis, mainly Americans obviously at that point in time at the Mogadishu airport and that. But yeah it was pretty well, and you seen up all the old ruined buildings and stuff on the perimeters and that. Then you went up, after you had a chance, you sand dunes, seen all the ships that were out in the bay there and stuff like that. You got to see the big green machine of the American army moving
like yeah, compared to us. Bit mind boggling, cause they move a lot different than us
Oh just a lot more logistics, they got more money obviously. Well the whole time we’re there, we pretty well lived on MREs [Meal Ready to Eat] and stuff, they pretty well supported us.
What are MREs?
Meal ready for eating, they’re the ones that come in the little brown paper bags, you just rip the top off and have about ten tonnes of rubbish in ’em, yeah. So and you get twelve, I think there’s thirty-six of ’em
all up, yeah, so you got, you eating repetitive stuff all the time. We had our rations now and then that they had at connexes and all that, I think most blokes just saved them to trade ’em, for French ration packs and Canadian ration packs, and just basically tried anything. Then you got to see, what else, no it wasn’t too bad, tent we got to see when we first got there, had basically piss and shit in the corner, I think the Moroccans were in it before us, they were filthy mongrels, yeah. Saudi Arabia
were in the tent next to us, one of the blokes we knew, he was, had relations back that way so he was over there dribbling something, he was over there doing, talking the lingo with em, yeah. And then, what was it, during that afternoon one of the blokes next door had a bloody ND or whatever, negligent discharge, not us, in the Arabian army or whatever. He shot through the top of his tent and that, so they all beat the crap out of him and he had to stay up and do all night picket and stuff like that. So, but it
was good to be there and then you got to watch, like I said, American army all around doing PT, see they’re a lot more lax that we are, and they’re sort’a, they like people to come to em and shoot at em and then they go back and throw the... where we’re, they’re more reactive I think we’re more proactive. But yeah, got to see that, was good, you seen a front gate and then we got to do some famil. drives and that where we all got loaded in the back of the trucks, with all our gear and that and went for a couple of drives around Mogadishu and that. Have a look at the state of the city,
and what was going on and getting fired upon, and just all that sort of good stuff, that sort’a get us, oh, not into the mood of it and all that, just to give us an idea of what we’re sort of facing, up hill battles sort of thing. More of a, yeah, drive you around town, check out some check points and mass people and yeah, just sort’a get an idea.
So that first week when you’re in Mogadishu, what was the area you were staying in?
The airport there.
Oh you were actually at the airport?
Yeah, we’re at, well
that’s where the plane, only place a Qantas aeroplane can land is at the actual American base there. Bloody, they had all that up there, spent millions of dollars doing it up too.
And so you were in...?
We’re just in like a tent, yeah, basically like yer twenty be thirty army tent sort of thing, American style, so you basically just sleeping in there. And you had a heap of tents down this way and that was just like a transit line while we’re in there before we had to wait for the rest of the mob to get in
and our boat to turn up. We had to go down and unload our boat and that, to get all our ammunition off, and all the other stuff.
So what’d you think that first day, getting you a tent that someone’s been using as a loo [toilet]?
Oh well, nothing you can do about it I suppose, bloody Moroccans, anything’s possible, filthy bastards. Yeah, you just had to live with it, that’s how they live, that’s their culture, there’s not much you can do about it. People gotta understand the western world, you can’t put things on other people, that’s how
they are, that’s the problem of the world, let em live the way they wanna live.
So what were the facilities for you that week, you were sleeping in the tent?
Yeah basically, just in our sleeping bags. And then from there we had to go down, like I said, unload the boat that come in with all our ammunition. And a couple of other blokes turned up, they’d been there for a while, meet up with the advance party to get all the blokes that were in our platoon, and we got briefs off them on, cause they’d been there for about a week.
Told us where everything is, what the go is, they’re the ones that sort’a took us out and come with us when we went for our famil. drive and that, on the back of the American trucks and stuff, just to get an idea of what sort of we’d be looking at and what scale we’re looking at.
Can you tell us about some of those famil. drives?
Basically back of truck driving through town. Heaps of friggin locals everywhere, wanting to trash everything on your vehicle, getting shot at.
What else? Boss losing our friggin map, things getting knocked off, total destruction, chaos, buildings absolutely just torn apart, full of bullet holes, oh recall us rifle holes, bloody crap everywhere. People just pretty well littered here and
there, they all just basically go out and piss and shit in the front street, rubbish everywhere, stank like anything.
Is there a smell since then that reminds you of that?
Oh yeah, can do, depends of which one you’re talking about. A lot of the stench is, comes from, yeah, what the people eat and that, and solvent and all that sort of stuff, yeah. And my most recollection that comes back for a lot of stenches
is mainly with shitty nappies and stuff like that.
So on the, when you’re in the back of the truck, are you all like in the centre of the truck looking out?
Yeah, we’re pretty well all standing up sort of thing, going for a drive around and that, so we can all look out, face out obviously, so if anything happens and that. Went through all the normal orders if anything happened, we had to get out and go through all our normal drills and stuff. But yeah it was more of a look around at the same time so we sort’a, like I said, so we knew what sort’a into.
Got a notion that you trust nobody, and that’s basically what it was from day one. And we walked around the base for a couple of days, like, in and after doing work parties and this and that. Got to see the French and how they work, they’re very interesting, they take their morale platoons with them, and stuff like that, prostitutions in wagons.
Tell me some more about
Nah, just basically a wagon full of the morale platoon. The French are a pretty good army, they’re pretty PR orientated they are. We went up to the sand dunes, they’ve got like heaps and heaps and heaps of ships out there, got re-fuellers, what else? The Americans they got their gym set up as usual, pumping away as they always do. Pakistani, they were a bit strange, sort of thing, to sort of work with, a lot of those armies, cause they’re a little bit more
laid back sort of thing. They come from that sort of, I suppose, culture where we try to be a little bit more professional I suppose. But it was hard sort of seeing, cause everyone’s got their different scenarios, see they live and breathe in that sort’a, how to you say, environment from where they normally come in Pakistan. See, where us, coming from here, living as we do, rude shock, big time. To them, it’s just like in everyday life to them.
And what about the Canadians?
Oh Canadians, pretty good, got to meet most of
them, they were pretty switched on soldiers, I’d rate them pretty highly as pretty good soldiers, I’d pretty well go with that. They get a lot of controversy when they’re over there but that’s their own problem, but yeah, most of them were pretty good soldiers, got to meet a few of them and that, eat their rations and stuff.
I’ve heard that Canadians and Australians often sort of...?
Similarity, yeah, pretty well. Pretty alike, in a lot of ways.
Tell me about the locals when you, like when you first got there and those famil drives, what was, what did they look like, what was their reaction?
What they look like on TV, same thing. They’re like everyone, they’re gonna be there cause they want everything out of ya. Gotta understand with these people, it’s hard to, where we come from and in the Australian way, you help anyone, but that’s not the case, cause you’re trying to help someone you could get stabbed in the back. That’s how they live over there, they live day to day, they live time to time. And like, if you
had five bucks in your hand or a bag of solvent, you give em half, you turned away and tried to trust em too much, they’d stab you probably for the other half, if they wanted it that bad. That’s how they are, that’s how they survive, so it was hard to trust sort’a thing, you know what I mean, you couldn’t trust anyone, cause that’s how they are.
So in that first week that you’re in Mogadishu, how did your actual first impressions there compare to what you’d expected?
it’s shocking, what can you do, you can’t bloody prepare you for that, you can watch all you want on TV, until you’re there, you’re smelling it and all the rest, seeing it, obviously it’s different. You can read all you want in a book, until you’re there on the ground feeling it, breathing it...
So from that first week then, then where to?
From there, about a week, we got all our orders and we basically did a convoy from there up to our aerial operations our AO [area of operations]
in Baidoa. Basically got there, got our orders, had a heap of trucks, cause by that time most of our vehicles had turned up. We all loaded up, certain men went on there, I went on to the back one, I got on with an Australian recce [reconnaissance] vehicle, which is recovery, basically got a big crane on the back and that, looks like a big tow truck, just an army version. And I got in there with some bloke, I can’t remember his name, I was cupola
gunman at the time, whatever you wanna call it, that stage. So I was in with him, he had his radio and that, we’re listening to Slim Dusty and John Williamson and something else, as we’re going down the highway, the MSR [Main Supply Route], main road.
So that convoy was just to transport all of you guys or was it actually a convoy protecting a NGO?
Yeah, bit of everything, it was mainly to get A to B, to like, Mogadishu was nearly all American and Canadians and bloody French and Pakistani’s
cause it’s a pretty big area, our area of operations was out at Baidoa. Everyone had their area of operations, and you had the Canadians which were above us, you got Moroccans, you got all these people all in the same area and that’s, so we had to get to our AO. And the easiest way was we flew in, grouped up, convoy, get on, drive out, and that was it, and we’re set up in your normal convoys, everyone running it, riding shotgun and that as protection, and get all your vehicles and all your men out to B so we can set up,
and we get out there and take over.
So, sorry I just go back to, on those famil. drives that you’re actually doing through Mogadishu, and you were saying that you guys were being shot at, what was the circumstance there?
Oh it wasn’t so like, as in ‘us,” cause we weren’t classed as taking effective fire, effective fire is one round per second within one metre, but there was people getting shot at, down the streets, in the distance, there was
still fire happening when we actually got there, so in that sense you were still in that sort’a area. And it was, yeah, so we weren’t effectively taking effective fire but even when we got there in the aircraft, we were hearing shots as it was. We don’t know if they were taking pot shots at the aeroplane or anything, no-one really knows, cause there’s no evidence, otherwise we would’ve found a round, wouldn’t we, or one or us would be dead, so, but rounds were going off.
Was that fairly unnerving?
Oh yeah, no, you get,
in a lot of times in training, it is cause you know they’re doing a job and it’s friggin for real, you don’t get a second chance on a two way range. But at the same time when you do a lot of your training, they do a lot of that stuff, firing above and all that to get you famil. with it and live fires and stuff like that, but yeah, gets unnerving, but that’s what you’re there for.
So was there still fire around on that convoy, trip?
Yeah, not as much, basically we’re all getting out, I think they were just letting us out, whatever they do, depends
on what they’re after and what they were doing at the stage. The Americans had a fair bit there, but we were getting out of that area, cause they had a fair bit of stronghold there, so there wasn’t like, as bad as it was when we first got to Baidoa and that.
So was it a fairly clear run that you had then from Mogadishu to Baidoa?
Yeah, it wasn’t too bad, weren’t too many major incidents. The first one was, I rocked up and we’re in a vehicle, and the convoy didn’t stop so
me and this other bloke we’re in the middle of the bloody desert, and we’re picking up some Yank that was sitting on the side of the road in his Humvee [HMMWV – High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle], cause it over heated, no-one else, what a dick-head. And basically so we picked him up and said, “Oh you need a hand mate?” and blah, blah, blah, and this and oh, they’re just like a bloody nightmare eh. So I was basically in the middle of nowhere, foreign country just laughing, cause nothing else you could do. So eventually we had to catch up with the convoy and that, but we just couldn’t believe there’s an American, he basically he got left
behind in a sense. Cause the Americans used to do a lot of water convoy where they just, like tonnes of trucks eh, you wouldn’t believe how many trucks, just water transport, and they just keep driving, if they get shot at they just keep going. Most of the drivers have got head sets on with stereos going, and they just keep driving, they get to the end of the thing and half their truck could be shot up or anything, they just don’t care, cause you can’t stop. But that’s the sort of stuff.
So what happened to that American that you stopped for?
Oh we picked him up, the knuckle head, so we had to
take him up until he got to his next group. And then basically we caught up to our convoy, cause they all stopped, it was getting basically into the escarpment going into Baidoa, oh, it was, whoo, go through trucks. Yeah, anyway there was a lot of people there and bloody, they had like an old Toyota, and it’d basically rolled and killed a shit-load of people, none of us. And whoo,
oh, anyway, and then we had to clean that up, so that held us up for a while, I wasn’t too bad, and then we continued on after that. And pretty well got in and took over the Americans at Baidoa, sort of move in, change over, they had most of it barb wired up and all that and we sort of had to move in and start from scratch.
that truck that you came across, whose truck was that?
Oh that was locals. Obviously normal thing they packed it full of solvent and all that sort of stuff and they had had like a cage on the outside and they pile as many people as they humanly possibly can get into it. And obviously going up the escarpment it tipped over, or someone run em off the road, and all the people on one side obviously turned into a cheese grater, as they were getting dragged along the road. So...
So you guys came across that?
Yeah, basically, yeah.
Basically, first day
Yeah, oh, escarpment outside yeah.
So what happened, did you stop and deal with it?
Oh, yeah well, most of the lead vehicles and all that had to get out and had to apply first aid and do all the normal stuff. Shift ’em over, mainly just drag all the dead bodies off the side of the road, did what we could and then move on, not much else we could do.
How long do you reckon you were stopped there for?
Oh God knows, time’s irrelevant at that point in time, but it would’ve been a while.
Would that have been the first time you
would’ve seen a dead body?
Oh yeah, probably would have been.
Was that fairly disturbing to have to deal with?
Oh yeah and no. At the time, nah. Now, yeah. It’s all comes back to haunt ya.
How does it do that?
Is it something that just sort of pops up and...?
Yeah, yeah. Intrusive thoughts.
How often would you say that happens?
Fair bit, when I talk about it,
that’s why you don’t talk about it.
At the time do you talk about it?
At the time, nah, just straight away, just laugh it off. You haven’t got time, like they say, you’re there to do a job, you can’t sit around and be emotional. It’s hard, but that’s it. That’s why they say you put on a suit of armour, as I used to say to a lot of people, it’s basically when you get there you put up a shield, cause you’re null and void from there, you’ve got a job to do. Can’t affect, your
emotions get a hold of you and then you’re gonna cause more trouble, cause you’re gonna put other men’s lives, especially for stuff like that. Still got a task, you gotta put it in reality, they rolled over, a lot of their fault, we do what we can do, that’s all we can do. Basically we can’t friggin prevent a lot of this stuff, they’re all driving around in vehicles and over loading em and accidents are gonna happen. They were more worried about pulling all this solvent off the road than they were all their dead mates, but that’s how they are. Cause when basically all the blokes got there
at the other end, no-one, basically had to pull most of the dead bodies off the road, cause most of the actual people that were on the other side of the van were too worried about picking up all the solvent, cause it was more important than their dead mates. So that’s how they live, that’s what you had to accept, that that solvent was more important, so that’s just how it was. So we moved on from there, went up, basically started getting into the air
field there at Baidoa and that was our AO central, basically that’s where we had to set up our firm base, the same as the Americans had at Mogadishu. The Americans were pretty well been there, just a smaller area, obviously they only had a smaller group at that point in time. They had their OPs [Operating Procedures] up, they had their razor wire out, and we sort’a just moved in, done a change over and done what we thought were modster, spiff it up to what we thought was professional. But yeah, well they were sitting in OPs that were like
I don’t know, probably about seven metres tall, middle of nowhere. Especially in the country where they got RPGs [Rocket Propelled Grenades], they can shoot at ya, 550, 750 [metres] I think on a stationary target, so they’re not too bright.
On a day like that where you come across something like that, the suit of armour that you were talking about, are you aware at the time that you’re doing that or you just...?
No, you just do it instantly. Nah, once it happened from there, that’s it, it’s on for the whole time you’re there. It’s
still on today.
Who are the passengers that were on the truck, was it men, women, children?
Yeah pretty well everyone, the whole, anyone, from kid up, all getting a free ride, and that’s how it is.
So then once you actually got to Baidoa and you set up, then what?
Well from there we all started getting our taskings from, soon as you got down there, mine was one of the first ones, basically we had to go out and do a VCP, a vehicle
check point. From there we, that’s where you basically go out, three APCs, I think it was three or two at this time, cruise on out to the main MSR which is the road that comes in, that we just come down. You put one APC at one end, one at the other end, and obviously vehicles when they’re coming along the road, cause that’s how bandits obviously gonna get in and out of town to bring weapons and Khat and all the other stuff that they have. And...
Sorry, bring weapons and...?
Khat. Khat, it’s a form of
their, like narcotic, it’s like, they used to bring it in big bag loads. It’s sort of like your betel-nut but it comes in like a big green thing, like grass, thick grass, celery, sort of thing like that and they just chew on it, and it’s a narcotic, like betel-nut. And then you chew on that and by twelve o'clock you’re ten foot tall and bullet proof. So that was coming through in the truck load.
And that was an illegal narcotic?
Oh well, the country’s pretty well in chaos,
what are we gonna do, we’re not police men, so, and at that stage no-one knew what it was, it was just considered like a cigarette to them obviously, cause it’s like betel nut in PNG, it’s a local thing. So what are you gonna do, just take, confiscate it? And yeah, so we set up our VCP [Vehicle Check Point] there, vehicles coming through. I think it was the first night there we had a couple of
close calls, cause a lot of the vehicles didn’t have brakes and oil leaks and I tell you now, you took photos of them now, Toyota’d pay you money for em, cause they were just driving around, half of em were lucky to be going and stuff. We had a couple of cases where they had to ditch em into the side of the road and that because they wouldn’t brake and we didn’t know what they were doing. Cause see, never dealt with that sort of scenario sort of thing, so we thought they were trying to run us down, so at that stage there it was lucky we didn’t start opening fire, but being Australian soldiers, we
give benefit of the doubt at that point in time, cause we didn’t feel our life were in danger. Worst case is we would just jump behind the APC and they would’ve just rammed into that and that would’ve solved their problem, they wouldn’t have went far, they would’ve had a big headache.
So before you went out to the VCP, what were your instructions?
Go there and do your job. Yeah, you get your normal orders and that, get on your trucks, in your APCs, head out there, you’re gonna be out there. We got told I think we were gonna be there for twenty-four hours, so don’t take much except for water and food, and five days later...
So in the end, we’re basically there and as a platoon you have one section on, one section is QRF [Quick Reaction Force] and one section basically sleeping. And when you’re sleeping, you’re basically all just sleeping together cause only a few blokes bought out their poncho lines and that, cause we got told we wouldn’t be out there for more than twenty-four hours, so you’re pretty well sleeping together.
It’s pretty cold, just in the open, on the side of the road. You had, we had a bit of a hootchie [shelter] up, that was CHQ,
which is company head quarters, oh, PHQ sorry, platoon headquarters where the boss was and the signaller, and he was just on to the left as you look at it. And the rest were sleeping on the, obviously the other side, so if anyone come off the road, they probably wouldn’t get run over hopefully. But yeah and then you had the other section, they were asleep as well but they, most of them were fifty-fifty, you have to sleep with your gear on in case something happened and you got called up. And QRF obviously bloody, moved in, took over the section,
the section went down, had a sleep and you just rotated like that.
What does QRF stand for?
A quick reaction force, which is basically if something happens, quick reaction force, you already got your gear on. No-one really goes, does anything sort’a thing, and if they do you gotta tell someone or someone comes in for you, sort of thing, so we went through that for a few incidents. Had a few close calls, we’re using NVGs, night vision goggles, stuff
like that, and which were out of date by miles. The Americans kept laughing at us cause we had stuff they had in their museums, and so it was pretty, working with crappy equipment. Wasn’t crap, we, like I said, improvise, overcome and adapt. But it got you angry a lot, because you’re using, you’re in the real shit, using shit, and that was basically it.
So when you’re actually going out to do the vehicle check points, like what was it, what were your orders, like what were you looking for,
what were you checking for?
Oh weapons, anything, bandits trying to come in, checking. NGOs had security guards with em, so when they pulled up, which in (ungoma...UNCLEAR), they had their body guards with them, you had to check their weapons and they had proper listings from em, and the listings they had to get from the Americans or from us. And every weapon had a listing, so unless they had a permit for it, “See ya later pal,” write em out a receipt, “here’s your receipt, if you got a problem with it, you go see the bloody
CMOT [Civil Military Operations Team],” or these other people that were at Baidoa head quarters there, and the Australian, and then you can get your weapon back. “Take this receipt in, find an excuse, get your boss to tell them and tell them and then you can get it back, if not, you’re losing it.” And most of the time, cause a lot of time the place was chaos, everyone was carrying weapons, it was your own protection, that’s how you protected yourself. You couldn’t rely on, there was nothing, everything was dys-balanced, dysfunctional, so basically, everyone was, had weapons and our job was basically disarm them, cause it was
too dangerous. Because if we got into a fire fight or something and these people, excuse me, were around and they started shooting or anything, they were probably shooting at us, when we’re there to do a job. So you’re picking up vehicles, searching vehicles, you had, go through their vehicles check for em, they started hiding vehicles in their, ah, weapons in their chairs, in their cars, under their bonnets, in their engines. You’re basically there to
search and disarm and take off stuff, and then we started searching, we got this one truck and it had oh, a heap of solvent on the back and that. And we went through that, and it had about forty-four million shillings, which is an American currency, not work Jack Cracker, had a mortar round in the bag when I threw it off, but that was all right. And I picked up the first bag of solvent cause I was on the search party then, I was scout in that,
see, so I had the pistol and I had crews all over the vehicle and that, for ease and that. And I lifted up the first bag of solvent and then I thought, “Oh well no-one’ll hold it under one,” so I picked up the second one and there was an M-16 flash expresser there. So then I told the boss obviously, so we apprehended the driver and all that, cause he didn’t wanna tell us about it. And from there we basically went through the vehicle and found multi weapons, instruction
booklets, money, so, we could only lead that... and then we called in the other QRF from CHQ to basically to come in and help us. So we had to spend the rest of the night basically pulling the vehicle apart, getting all the solvent off, checking the vehicle thoroughly. Setting up a prison compound and putting the people that were actually in the vehicle into the prison compound, until hierarchy come down with a vehicle, took ’em away to go see CMOT to be questioned.
And then the vehicle was basically left there and once they were all cleared the one bloke, he could drive it away, after we apprehended all the weapons they had and everything else.
CMOT, like, I’m trying to remember, I think it’s Civil Military Operation Team, don’t quote me on that but I think that’s what it’s for. It’s basically the liaison office sort of between the military police, civilians, legal and that, and they’re a lot of the people that done
most of the questioning and all that of, obviously all the people that we apprehended and stuff.
And what was the general reaction of the drivers and passengers in the cars?
Yeah, normal thing, soon as you find something, “We didn’t know about it,” normal stuff. But yeah, most of them wouldn’t tell you Jack Cracker, yeah, so that was it. Oh, we’re basically doing no favour to them are we, but we’re trying to explain to em, the idea of doing it, but you didn’t who was who, you don’t know.
You caught em, what are you going to know, it’s not like CSI [Crime Scene Investigation – television program] here in Townsville or anything like that on a show, you’re over there, what have you got, nothing. The only proof you got is that there, caught with it, they haven’t done anything, unless you got actual factual like evidence or they’ve been photographed with bandits or anything like that, most of the time you can only tag em, bag em, send em back and let them do the process, you’ve done your job. After that, that’s their job, and that was frustrating sometimes.
Interviewee: Dale Thompson Archive ID 1679 Tape 07
What was the camp at Baidoa like?
When we first rocked up there, it was, yeah pretty chaotic, the Americans pretty well, pretty lax sort of thing, rocked up and things are getting knocked off left, right and centre. I tell you, you’ve never seen some of those Somalian people that can get through razor wire and get out the other side without a scratch on em, they’re like Houdini’s, and they run like clacker, you never catch em, fully kitted up.
So, yeah, they were getting in, stealing stuff, and wild dogs and frothing at the mouth. The French were in certain areas but once we got in there we took over from the Americans, pretty well they all left except for a group and then you had the water the point and the fuel point. And then at that stage later on the French took over that from us, when we were leaving.
So how did the Aussies tighten up security there?
Yeah, well obviously we’re a lot more man
power and then we rocked up, things to do. So, well the Americans a lot of other people, I don’t think they were doing a lot of foot patrols or anything that, since the incidents they had that were on TV of their soldiers getting shot in the streets and stuff. So basically the Australians, where you work on the foot patrol theory, and pretty well we’re about the only ones I think in the whole country at one stage there that were pretty well doing foot patrols, twenty-four seven, cause everyone had
sectors and you foot patrolled nearly the whole town. You had, instead of going out at one area, then you started sections and platoons were camping in NGO areas, like their buildings and that, so you could provide security for them as well. But also it’s a launching pad to do your patrols and that to keep everyone on their feet, and keep the supposed bandits that were moving around, on their feet.
With the problems that the other United Nations people had had, in that
regard being shot at in the streets, that must have been a huge risk for the Aussies to do foot patrols?
Yeah, well that’s the only way to do it, you can’t do it from a vehicle, you gotta be there. You can hear a vehicle miles away, foot patrol’s the only way to do it, you can sneak up and catch em, and that’s just how it is, that’s how it’s always been and always be the same.
And knowing that there’d been those incidents, how did that make you feel when you’re in a patrol?
I don’t know, might get to shoot someone, or get shot at, that’s how it is, you had to take it for what
it is. It’s like everything, everything in any other place, you make them die for their country, you don’t die for yours, that’s basically the theory that you go through, and just do your job as professionally as you can and take everything that happens when it happens. You can’t think about sort’a stuff like that, otherwise you’d be sitting there, you’d be all clogged up with that much thoughts in your head, you wouldn’t be doing your job, and forget to be doing what you’re doing. And when you’re scouting you can’t do that, you’re too busy worrying about here, now, not worried about
ten seconds down the road or five seconds that went past. At the same token you are thinking, three steps in front, but not that far, cause you gotta think where you’re going next, you’re thinking all the time in that sense. But not as in two weeks or what if you get shot at, you could deal with that when it happens sort of thing.
Does your adrenalin surge in those situations?
Oh yeah. I used to drink, at one stage there to keep awake, we used to do three hour patrols and we drink,
I used to drink caffeine straight, just pour it in your mouth, and then drink water, cause ya didn’t get much sleep, so used to do stuff like that, you just drink big canteens full of coffee. Cause you’d go out, do your three hour patrols, come back, then you still had to do pickets, lot of times I’d take first picket now and then, depending on what tasking you had on. You had security of the air base, you had patrolling, you had your VCPs
and then you had food distribution convoys and stuff, so all companies had different tasking and you just rotated. So at different stages, during the patrolling stage, yeah you didn’t get much sleep. It’s just how it was, till you sleep (UNCLEAR)...
And when you finally got a break were you so pepped up that you just couldn’t sleep anyway?
Yeah, basically, it was hard to sleep. Then you’d wake up, you’d do your picket, then you’d basically, if you had five minutes to have a sleep, and then something’d happen anyway,
and then you’d be off again, six hours later doing another three hour patrol if you had to, depending on whatever happened. And if you were QRF [Quick Reaction Force] or something like that, and an incident happened then you got no sleep at all, cause you’re up hill straight away anyway. So if you got off, that’s why half the time you just wished it happened when you’re on, cause you’re awake anyway, so at least you’re already there, you didn’t have to try and get out of your fart bag.
Would you still have to do stand to?
Yeah you still did that stuff but a lot of
times was like, you still got up and done that stuff, that’s just normal in everyday training. But a lot of the positions were out there, depending on where you were, if you’re in base and you’re doing op duties and you’re on one of the off things, no, you had a little bit of time. But most time you’re up anyway, your body clock got you up, but yes, you still did stand to, cause that’s the most likely time they seem to be attacked, in any warfare.
And with the Australia having its different AO, it sort’a reminds
me of Australia’s situation in Vietnam where they’d put the Aussies somewhere separate, was that a deliberate thing do you know?
It’s just so you can do your job I suppose and not interfere with them. But it’s like anything, you had, like I said, you had Moroccans, Canadians, you all got these AOs [Area of Operations] cause it’s under the UN, which is bloody everyone but everyone’s in there, and you get designated your AOs. And you sort’a do it to your own, not your own law, to your own way to do it. And you try and pepper out your problems
as you are, and the Americans tried to deal with Moga [Mogadishu]... cause that’s a bigger scale and they got a bigger force, and they spent more money in the air field, they wanna protect something.
And how much did Australia still rely on American support there?
Oh pretty well logistically, yeah, pretty well everything, water trucks coming in, oh you name it. A lot of the first rounds we got were all American, so green trace and bloody food, until our kitchen
got up running and that and we had a kitchen down there, I had one meal there, never went back again.
This is an American kitchen?
No, this is ours, Australians got theirs up and running but ah, just couldn’t be, walk all that way. It was a bloody, a long way down to the other end of the thing and the Sally-man hut was there, I walked down there once, never went back again, couldn’t see the point. Like, half the time when you did have five seconds, all youse wanna do was have a rest, didn’t worry about other stuff. When I had a chance I’d lay down and have a sleep
if I could, five minute kip as they say or power sleep.
So if you decided you weren’t gonna go down to the mess for a feed, what would you do?
Oh just eat your MRE, that’s all you did. Mess food all the same, all went in one end and out the other end.
So when you’re doing your patrols and that, what sort of things are you looking for?
Everything. Them shooting us, us shooting them, oh, you name it, unlawful activities, mainly, obviously they’re gonna work more at
night aren’t they, a lot more thing. And we used their night vision goggles, and they start moving around and they got their mosque there, and they’re working there and they hide their weapons and they basically move from there to there at night, cause you’re working in like close quarter area it’s, everything’s just happening. And a lot of people are out at night, and you got bloody, women and children in the street. And a lot of times if it was quiet, something was gonna happen, and a lot of times half the women were the early warning for them and they’d be sitting there
all laughing. Usually that was a big call sign, if they all started laughing and stuff like that, like a pack of fourteen year old girls giggling, you knew something was either gonna be happening or you’re getting set up. But yeah, so you’re patrolling around, just doing what you had to do and that was basically provide security for our base, and disarm em so that we could distribute food to the people. And you have to have patrols on the ground to make it secure, and that’s basically what we had to do,
and that’s basically what the patrols did, go round, finding em, apprehending em in the bloody thing.
And what sort of things did you find that you’re disarming off these people?
Oh everything, AKs [AK-47 machine gun], you name it, whatever, RPGs, oh God, whatever you can think of, old .303 rifles sawn off and, you name it, whatever they had. They had oh, old, oh, every sort of like Egyptian
grenades, and all these old make up stuff, like, you think it’d be like home made stuff, stuff I’ve never seen before and stuff. Cause they told us before we went over there the place was pretty well been mined, badly, so that was in the back of your head all the time. Cause everywhere was just supposedly, by the amount of mines that they put down in that area, and they were everywhere. There was Egyptian grenades on the ground, they looked like old Coke cans, just sun
weathered and stuff like that, so that’s all it looked like. And at one stage there, you looked at kicking one and stuff like that, and you just go, “Hang on,” and then you think about it, cause you think you’re still back in Australia in that split second, then you realise you’re not, so and then you have a look at it and find out what it is, and there were heaps of cases like that. They had, kids used to go off and find like, unexploded ordnances and bring em back to us and that, and stuff like that, which was dangerous,
but we didn’t want nothing to do with it but you could do anything. They were running up giving it to you, you either take it or they’ll chuck it at you, so you’re living with that every day.
And with all the blokes we’ve spoken to, the whole kid thing is always interesting, like they’re all coming up being friendly were they?
Oh yeah, kids are, they’re the way they are. But one minute, like I said, they’ll shake this hand, next minute they’ll try and stab you or take something out of your friggin webbing, that’s just how they are. Or they’re setting you up or they’re, they’re like everything, they’ll use you for
the time you’re there, Aussie number one and soon as the French move in, French number one, it’s how they live, day to day, so you couldn’t trust em as far as you could go, but they were there. And then, see that was the hardest bit I suppose, being, coming from this culture here where you try and help any person in need and that, over there, you basically had to fight all your instincts, because that caused danger, put yourself in danger, put your section in danger, that’s how it was.
I’ve heard that a lot of the Somalis, just about everyone, carried knives and that?
Oh well that was their, that’s what they did, they had that flattened knife and that, yeah, that was just how it is, like, I don’t know, Australians supposedly walk around with knives, like Crocodile Dundee. That’s just how they were, you look at the country, that’s what they use for protecting themselves, skinning stuff, all the rest of it.
So that’s almost a basic day to day tool for them, did you have to confiscate those as well or...?
Oh at some stages we did,
but a lot of stages no, you just collect it off em and give em back and stuff, but yeah, they were pretty sharp knives. But that’s just like every day life for them, like us cruising round with a pocket knife.
So how did you, how would you make the decision on whether or not you’re gonna...?
Well that’s it, split second, deal with it at the time. If you thought, basically if they weren’t playing along, keep em at a distance, never trust em, that’s all you had to do. As long as you got the basic search
off em and that, like that, he could take it off em and make em come through and give it to the next bloke and he follows em down with it. They go to the, excuse me, go to get out of the food distribution point, the bloke gives it back to you, “See ya later.” So you have to deal with that, but...
And the vehicles that the Somalis had?
Oh they had technical vehicles, we mainly bloody seen a lot of
em that were there that were in disuse at that stage. They were mainly just like old, how do you say it, like a Hilux, with a bloody big bolt, thing bolted in the back with fifty or thirty cut on the back, classed as a technical vehicle and that, never really encountered any of them at that stage. Looking through night vision goggles and that, supposedly seeing a couple, but with the equipment I was using, what can you do? Cause a lot of times they used to come down the
MSR and that and you’re looking out and you’re just taking a guess at what they are, cause a lot of em’d know if the road block’s there, and then they just stop, and they’d be sitting right at the end in a silhouette. And then they just turn off and take off, and then you try to radio em, there’s no point chasing em cause they’re gonna go somewhere at that point in time. Can’t change, you gotta post a hold there and that, all’s you can do is note it.
And how physically did you set up the VCPs?
Physically? Well the VCPs were
only like a quick thing, you rock up, APC, APC, that was about it, put a hoochie up and if you had to, put barb wire up as like an imprisonment thing, but that was about it, that’s at that level and stuff. And when you went to food distribution and stuff like that, you used to rock up with your vehicle, stop just outside of town and stuff, and the boss’d go in, in his vehicle with bloody the sergeant and that, go and do what’s called a recce [reconnaissance], find a suitable
place that we could have enough area to put our platoon or our section down in. Then we’d go, come back, get us all, move in, all the blokes’d just get off all the trucks and put out a human cordon. Then obviously everyone’s got their job, running round with the razor wire, cordon it off, put your gates in which are just star pickets, two sentries. Vehicles all inside, cause if you left em outside they’d just rip everything off and run away with it, that’s just how they were, so all vehicles inside, put em all over to one side. Gunner
in cupola, outside cordon, most of them were blokes would just have a stick, and you’d have your gun, gat on ya, and then inside cordon would be one or two, that’d be designated shooters in case something happened, so if something happened that was mainly their job to shoot, cause they got a better view. The outside ones, just to stop the niggly people coming up trying to rip all the barb wire down, or charging the barb wire or jumping it or some bloody thing, which they all tried to do at one stage or another, and yeah, and then you file em all
through. At one stage there they kept going around and around and going to the back of the lines so we had to start dyeing their hands and that. So they’d dye a hand, give em their tools and their solvent or whatever, put ’em out the other end, so if they come back, they had dye on their hand, we knew they were tryna take us for a ride, which they all did, cause that’s how they lived.
And what were doing those food distributions like?
Yeah, hard some days, good some days, depends on what was going on. We went to other places and
some people wanted to play the game, other people didn’t. Mass hysteria, mass people wanting to push you and tell you, obviously they’re dying and they’re hungry, and basically throwing their kids at ya. Stuff like that. Because obviously, it’s survival.
Did it, was doing things like that, you know, really make you feel like you were doing something positive there?
Yeah and no. Like I said, you can’t look at the politics behind it, or we just
go crazy, you’re just there to do a job. It hurt you sometimes, like I said, you just gotta put the shield down and get on with it.
What impacted on you the most?
Oh kids, I suppose, yeah. And not being able to trust anyone, sort of thing, in that side. Hard. It, like I said, just the western world and the (east...UNCLEAR), you just can’t put any of your aspects onto theirs, cause their value of life is so
small. Like, to them they’ll have thirty kids, can’t feed ’em all, so, I don’t know, they’ll let ten die, that’s just how life is to them. But to you it’s hard, especially when you’re going through and you gotta deal with that, especially with them when they just walk off and leave their kids there to die and stuff.
Did you think at time there was more that could’ve been done?
What can you do, can’t save the world, that’s why we’re all screwballs now. Can’t help everyone, you can only do what you can,
try and help everyone, and break up.
And you said a lot of the information they’d given you before hand was kind of outdated by the time you got there?
Yeah, it was and it was. It was what they could give you at the time, the rest you had to learn the lay of the land when you got there, like any other army. You basically rock up, bloody do what you had to do, and then when information, overcome, adapt, and do the best job you can with it, and that’s it. A lot of times you can have all the lessons in the world,
but when the shit hit the fan, that was it, that’s all you had.
So you feel the training was adequate that you had before you went there?
Yeah, to get through, after all that, like I said, you can train people a hundred times and different people can fall apart, they can come together, it’s all in the make up of the person a lot of times. People can train for twenty or thirty years, go to one incident, fall apart. Other people can train for ten minutes, go there and do the
job, it’s all in the make up. But we had as much as, I suppose, they could give us at that time, with the limited time they had.
Did people have trouble coping at the time, with seeing the sort of things that you guys had to see?
Yeah, oh there was heaps of hard copes. A lot of blokes talking, at one stage there you become the, like a chaplain, and everyone talked to you here and there, that’s how you got rid of a lot of stuff off your chest. But a lot of people, the Australian way, you just laugh about it, joke about it, that
way sort of get it off your chest and at the same time, not try and take it all in. That’s why you had to put the shield up, just let it all bounce off, cause you just, you can’t, you can’t solve everything, you can’t do everything, you can’t help everyone, and just, in the end you just gotta do the job you can and do it the best you can with what you got.
Have you ever thought that there might’ve been a better way of dealing with those sort of things?
Yeah, but I don’t try and think about it too much. Causes too many problems.
Did you feel like soldiers over there or like policemen?
Yeah, probably more police men. Well half the time that’s what you felt like in a lot of stints. Like I said, had, like, half the time yeah, you felt like a police man because you were, you were like, you were there, you had like, you’re able to do a job unless someone come up and basically started shooting directly at you.
And even then, it was hard to like, you had to, you couldn’t fire back in a lot of cases. Like, cause they were either firing from a crowd, or they were firing from up and go round a corner or, just things like that. So just like, half the time you just felt like you phoo, shooting gallery, in a sense, you’re there, sort of like a police man in a lot of ways, your hands are tied behind your back, until you get em out in the open, or anything like
that. So you’re getting a fair bit of shit, you were getting flogged up, spat at, punched, kicked, all up to the degree that you’re standing there taking all this stuff to a lot of times, and half of it’s not even the people’s fault in the front, it’s all the people down the back, but you had to take it, that was part of it at that stage. Because a lot of them don’t care who ya are or where you been or what ya are, they’re just there to get the food, and if you’re in the road, they’re gonna push you over. And it’s all right, you can be as strong as you want, but when there’s about a hundred of ’em,
gets a bit harder.
How often did things like that happen?
A fair bit.
How often would you do those sort of food hand outs?
Oh when you’re doing it you get about a week or so of it, do probably one every day, depending on the tasking and other people going out. Then you come back and you do your OPs and then you do that for about a week or so, then you can do your VCPs, depends on what rotation you’re in but
yeah, you done a fair bit. Depending on, like NGOs come to us, or go to the, all the hierarchy, “This is what we’re gonna do, this is where we gotta put the food,” and all that, “and we need youse to go out and help us and protect us.” “No worries,” and that’s basically where it’s coming from. And then at stages, like we used to go out and they used to do weigh points and for nurses and needles and inoculations so you could go out and drive for hours, get off the back of the truck, pissing blood basically. And
then you’d just go through and put in your cordon and that, such, and then the nurses and NGOs’d do their job.
And you were telling me off camera before that was quite a hard task because...?
Yeah, a lot of them didn’t want to play the game eh? A lot of them thought they were, I don’t know whether they were fucking trying to become something back at home or something like that, a lot of them tried to jeopardise more your life, and your security of your perimeters, just for their sake. It’s like you were there to be their friggin
donkey, in a lot of cases, they’d run around do whatever they want, and you just gotta be there to catch a bullet or something. I didn’t feel that was my job. Lot of times you had to, they had to try and play with you, the same thing, but a lot of times they didn’t wanna.
Did blokes ever speak of their frustration in cases like that, in cases where you’re feeling more like a copper instead of a soldier?
Yeah, oh heaps of times, I had heaps of blokes break down.
That’s just how it is.
You had a, were there any other ways that blokes sort of dealt with just sort of the pressure, like often we hear about the Aussie sense of humour that...?
Yeah, have a punch up now and then, roll around. Go sit on the dunny [toilet] or thunder box for four hours, read a Penthouse. That was about the only other way I suppose. But yeah, well there’s no real other outlet is there, talk to your mate, have a joke about it is the only way.
The Aussie larrikin, joke about it, otherwise you would go insane.
Do you think, unfortunately, that only works in the short term?
Yeah, oh, like I said, I still got people that are in the army, they’re all denying they got problems but as soon as they say they got a problem, the army’ll probably get rid of em, so you gotta take good with the bad.
How often did you, were you able to correspond with home?
Oh crikey, I didn’t write that much. I think me Dad
sent me a few jokes now and then, laughed me, keep me, told me to keep me head down. Mum, yeah, I think I phoned home once, care of the Americans, that was it, didn’t worry about it after that. Too busy worrying about having a sleep or eat, getting ready for the next job.
Were there any tasks that you disliked more than others?
Tasks? Oh food distribution
I suppose. Everything was tough, depending on what was, anything could happen, everything happened. Didn’t matter whether you’re walking around, back of a vehicle, you always had some battle, depending on whether it was your personal battle to the way people were getting used, how they were using you. But, yeah, everything’s a battle, especially the women and children it was harder, cause we, in Australia have suppose, a lot more respect for our women and children, where over there the men’d
slap and punch ’em to the ground and children are no different. So, it’s a lot harder to sort of cope with.
Did you ever see instances of Somalis being violent to other Somalis?
Ooh yeah, heaps of times, a lot of times what can you do? What are you gonna do, run out there and arrest him?
What were your orders in regard to witnessing things like that?
I’ve seen machete fights and stuff, depends on what it was.
Lot of times inflicting pain and stuff. You just gotta stick to your task in, that’s involved. If you could stop it you tried to stop it, lot of times the bloke’d just do his job and just run off anyway, so what are you gonna do? When we started to get the police force up and running which the French got their, all the glorification for and that, when we started all them, we got ’em all their Sam Brownes [combination of a pistol belt and shoulder strap worn by officers] and all that, and then you could start taking ’em to places like that and they started executing em and stuff like that. But beside that at the beginning
just had to deal with watching a lot of it.
Islam is the main religion over there?
Oh God, couldn’t tell you off hand. As far as I know I believe it’s something like that.
Did you guys receive any sort of talks about how to deal with that?
Yeah, yeah and no, but to do with religion is a bit hard isn’t it, especially from our western world. What are you gonna do? Look at the problems they got now, in the Gulf, everywhere.
You can’t stop, considering a lot of their customs, especially with circumcising women and things like that, so, what are you gonna do? You can’t tell em not to, supposedly their custom.
And other things like alcohol and pornography and that sort of thing, how did that impact on the...?
Well obviously you didn’t take that out cause you weren’t allowed to, that stayed in, basically in barracks or in your pouch. Oh, we didn’t have any alcohol as in there, except for the French Foreign Legion they had everything, the bums,
they’re always getting drunk. Yeah, but besides mainly porno and stuff like that, pretty well stayed within your lines when you could. You got a rap on the knuckle [light discipline] if you were pulling it out, being stupid, but most of the time you respected em in that, which was, sense, cause obviously that’s their religion.
So did you ever get to have a beer to chill out?
Oh beer, yeah we had, I had three or four days off when we went into Kenya
Went there, had a few beers, got absolutely drunk, got back on the plane, come back, almost got killed getting there, some crazy Kiwi pilot, flying the plane, I think he should’ve lost his license.
What happened there?
Oh, he was a hairy flyer. Coming back, I think he, I don’t know whether he was doing that just to try and make, see how many Australians he could make throw up. Coming in to land I think we were going sideways at one stage, typical Kiwis, what do you expect, the bastards. Probably still,
still upset for losing the World Cup at that stage I think.
Were there any Kiwi soldiers over there with you guys?
Not that I can recall, like there was just, as I said, the whole time we were there, I got in there, we got to see a few of the soldiers around you and that, at the main Mogadishu, then basically we got to go to our AO. And besides the Americans, seen the French now and then come in,
and a couple of Moroccans driving around like lunatics, didn’t get to liaison too much. Even within my company, at half the stage there we only, we didn’t operate, a lot of times we operated more section, in platoon level, it’s pretty rare at a lot of stages to operate at company level.
Cause you mentioned the French and the French Foreign Legion, were they there, was that one and the same or were they there in two separate…?
Oh pretty well, well the Legionnaires are,
they’re elite so that’d be classed as their special forces cruising around. And the French are, they’re normal soldiers which are, “You will do two years Nasho [National Serviceman – conscript],” so there’s a difference, but yes, they’re all there. Cause obviously you got, I think the French soldiers are mandatory two years Nasho or something, and most of that I think they do about a year UN, cause obviously the UN obligations, obviously they must owe someone money or something.
Do you know if every
single Aussie that was there was regular soldier?
Couldn’t tell you the hands on that. All’s I know is pretty well as much as I knew, yes, much as I knew. Like I said, between my section and that, the rest of the world that didn’t worry me too much. I was just worried about meself, me mate next to me and getting out in my line so I could have a beer. But yeah, that was basically, and higher levels a lot of times.
Like I seen me mate Terry, I think it was, in Charlie Company [C Company] twice, twice or three times the whole time I was over there. But yeah, and a couple of the other blokes, I was lucky to see I think. But yeah, at that level, cause they’re all obviously doing different taskings, at different point in times. There was only now and then if you seeing them around BHQ [Battalion Headquarters] doing a tasking for the front gate or something, or you come in the front gate waving at em after you come back from a tasking. They’d throw a rock at you or something like that.
What was the best task to receive?
Best task? Oh, I don’t know, probably sitting around a warehouse. Front gate wasn’t too bad, except for kids throwing friggin UXOs [Unexploded Ordnance] and all that up ya, cause they all thought it was so funny, throwing like whole friggin pineapple grenades and RPG rounds with the head smashed in, and seeing if they could throw em on the roof and that. Besides that it wasn’t too bad, living under a little bloody hut anyway.
Can you talk about the heat a bit for me and
what you did to combat it?
Breathed a lot and drank a lot. Hot, sometimes we used to go out on patrols and that, we’d just have buckets and dip our shirts in em, that was basically about it eh. Go out, three hours, you come back and look like you’d been swimming, head to toe just sweat, and used to have all your normal starch marks all over ya. But yeah, and you just hang it up and dry it out, if you could at that stage when you had your five minute rest or whatever between your... then before you go out you just dip it in water if you had it, could, just rinse
it out a bit, put it on wet, that way it kept you a little bit cool while you’re patrolling. By the time you put your helmet on, your flak jacket, your webbing with about fifteen kilos, Christ what other crap are we carrying, and that was about it. And then you slogged around for three hours, it got pretty tiresome.
You never had to do any trials with packs?
Not really, we got, it was pretty good in that sense, but now and then we did take our packs for certain places and that. We had a couple
of cases where we went out, we done this cordon search, and we had our packs in the APCs and that, then we had to set out a perimeter. And then we’re sitting there sleeping and the hyenas started running around us and stuff, so we’re up doing fifty-fifty picket, waiting for someone to get dragged off by the hyenas, so that was pretty scary as well I suppose, in that tense.
And can you tell me a bit about your, the helmets and your flak jackets?
Oh well, you got basically your flak jackets, basically
made principally just for like if a grenade goes off and that, stop the, obviously a tumbling object. But for things, the main reason I think we wore ’em is cause, obviously when the Americans got basically shot in the street and that, they were wearing kevlar plates, and obviously when they shot them, obviously they didn’t die. So supposedly in the Australian government’s wisdom they haven’t got enough money to give us all that but we’ll wear flak jackets and to the bandits and all the other people, it was like we were wearing
kevlar. Our helmets were kevlar. We were trialling a lot of gear when we’re over there too but every other country had everything that was better, lighter. Typical Australians, we’re still running round with jam tins making bombs, I’m sure of it. So, yeah.
And the helmets with the kevlar, how much worth, are they new...?
Yeah, at that stage, just sort of got rid of all the old soup lids. So yeah.
And how did you find em?
Oh they’re all right, lot, they’re all good if you’re sitting in a vehicle and that. When you’re patrolling
it’s hard, cause you used to have to have your neck up on your flak jacket, a lot of times for fragmentation, obviously they hit you in the neck, cut your neck off. So you had that up and your helmet and when you patrolled with it, every time your helmet scratched it, it was just making a ‘crr, crr, crr, crr, crr,” so half the time you couldn’t even hear what the hell was going on. But they’re going, “You gotta keep it on! You’re going, “I can’t hear anything anyway!” So half the time we got rid of them cause just said, “Oh look mate, we can’t patrol with that crap,” so we took them off and just put our bush hats on, cause it was just getting too hard, you
And you see a lot of shots of blokes at Timor wearing sunnies [sunglasses], that was no go back then?
Yeah, we had sunnies, you should see the crap we had, we had like those old whipper snipper goggles. Yeah, no lying mate, we had those shitty arse, little whipper snipper goggles with the blue strap on the back, and that was to keep the dust out. We had to trade stuff to get the Yanks [Americans] to get me goggles like I’m wearing in me picture, cause they’re proper, like you can get gas lenses and all that, so we had that.
I bought me own sunnies over when I went over and you could get black, but they gave us this dodgy pair of sunnies that were about as useless as nothing, so and I think most people just threw them in the bin and went and bought Oakleys [brand of sunglasses]. Not like now they all get Oakleys and stuff, all black and that. But the majority of people didn’t even wear sunglasses, obviously for that reason.
And what about coping with the dust in your mouth?
Dust? Nah, well, what’s that? Just get a old, like, make yourself up
like a bloody head banner or something and wrap it around ya, put it over your mouth and that, put your goggles on and that’s it, just improvise. It’s like I said, a lot of stuff, even your night vision goggles, they were like prehistoric. At one stage there we were trialling the Israeli ones and that which are the basis of some of the other new stuff we got now. But yeah you could switch from side to side and only uses one eye, so you can still see through with it but
if flares and that go up you can still use your master eye and that, it hasn’t been done by night vision. So...
So the helmets, the kevlar helmets, they were they American were they?
Oh initially that’s where they all come from, yes.
What about the flak jackets?
Flak jackets, I think we’ve had them. You gotta remember in Australia, we always seem to get the hand me downs from the Americans, but I believe so, that’s where they all come from, that sort’a era.
Yeah, oh, crap yeah, everything there was old.
God. And all our webbing used to fall apart, cause the ADI and that, and who decided they wanna fucking put all their stuff together, didn’t realise that when you go on operations the amount of weight you carried, and we were just getting pouches, were just tearing apart on us and things were just falling apart left, right and centre cause of, just the weight we were carrying. They’d never done anything, and they had metal clips on em and we had to get plastic clips to stop em from rubbing through and cutting off and oh, just a nightmare. The Austyer [Australian Steyr] was never a weapon,
that should be put anywhere near sand and oh, just endless problems. But that’s just how it is, you just gotta cope, and that’s where you hear a lot of frustration you got today, especially with technology, cause we didn’t have any. Like fumbling around in cave men days, especially when the Americans were cruising around with bloody NVG-9s [Night Vision Goggles] and stuff like that, you can read a book, and stuff like that. Christ, we had our 5s, they were useless
and we were using TIs [Thermal Imaging] and stuff like that, thermal images and stuff like that, which is so outdated. They’re meant to be man portable or some bloody thing and all up I think they weighed about thirty-odd kilo plus. So you’re humping them up and down a stinking op tower, so it was pretty prehistoric, well that’s what it felt like to me. Cause I was looking, I thought, “Oh yeah, we’ll be going on ops, this’ll be the gear, they might get us out like normal, give us gear to go.” Christ, they might as well have just sent us all over there with American stuff.
But that’s how it is.
And did blokes every beg, borrow, steal, American stuff, besides the sunnies and...?
Yeah, pretty well, swap a slouch hat for a stretcher, American stretchers, gas, sorry not gas, all your dust goggles. Oh, what else, bloody, pretty well anything that we needed at that stage, yeah, pretty well, beg, borrow or steal or swap.
At one stage there yeah.
And that was just from the guys that were still sort of with you guys?
Yeah, pretty well. Pretty well bloody anywhere that you could, a lot of times you swap your rations for something. Yeah, it was pretty well swap, swap, look after yourself.
Did you ever get back into Mogadishu at all?
Yeah, basically I got to go down there just as we were sort of leaving to go to the wash point and stuff like that. But besides the first initial in there and initial out, nah.
A few other blokes got to work down there with a lot of the other agencies and stuff like that, but oh they’re too busy doing other taskings, being in a rifle company. Some other blokes in other areas like mortar platoon and stuff like that, they got to go down there. Security parties for, obviously delegates and stuff like that, yeah.
Did any Australian politicians or anything like that, come over and visit you guys?
Yeah we had one, I can’t remember what his name was, we had to do the security
party for him. He rocked up in a, he’s cruising around in an AP-bloody-C, we’re all wearing bloody stuff cause we thought he might get bloody hit and all that. He basically walking out, clean skin and all that, so once again it looked like we’re gonna be catching bullets again, but yeah, that’s about the only one, delegate I can think of, that come down. But the rest didn’t wanna know, didn’t care, they weren’t enhancing my job any more, create more problems.
What about any Australian entertainers or anything?
Nah, what’s that?
Nothing to cheer the boys up?
Penthouse, that’s about it. Now and then get a letter, we had a few of the blokes, their Mums used to make cakes and stuff, that’d be about it. Had a mate called Buddha and his Mum was always sending cakes and stuff so he was a pretty big hit in the platoon.
Was there any effort that it seemed like that Australia was sending any
sort of good wishes to you blokes?
Nope, not that I know. Not that I can recall.
No CARE packages or anything like that?
What’s that? Not that I recall. All’s I remember is going down Sally-man hut, and Sally-man sitting there sleeping and walking out again and never going back. About as far as I went for that. That was about as far as I remember.
Interviewee: Dale Thompson Archive ID 1679 Tape 08
Dale, when you’re out on patrol or out on the vehicle check points, what was the actual criteria for identifying if someone was a bandit?
They had a weapon. Could be anyone, pretty well you don’t know, pretty well you can search people walking along the road, pretty well anyone was. Kid, women, you name it, whatever, that was the base there, anyone but everyone was hostile,
was classed as danger, risk to your life. And if they were carrying a weapon it was even worse. And a lot of times that’s what you had to look at, like just cause someone had a weapon you just couldn’t shoot him. Cause a lot of times he could be a farmer protecting his house and he hears a rumble so he goes outside with his gat. So, what are you gonna do, just waste him? What for? Technically he’s only protecting his own family. You get across the point who you are, and that, and a lot of time they’re reluctant to give up their weapons,
for obvious reasons, cause it’s protecting their family. So that was hard, cause you could see the way, that if it was me, I’d be telling the Australian soldier to piss off too. Because I’d be going, “Listen my weapon to protect my family, if you take it I’m gonna get killed,” and that’s basically what would happen. So to do it to that degree was hard too, cause you knew you were taking off their own defence mechanism for their own family, so that was hard. But then we had other cases where blokes were basically, talk crap to us, and then you lift up their bed in their little hut and they
got RPG rounds and RPG rocked launches. Just so you can drive away and they can shoot a hole straight through your APC and kill everyone. So you gotta take a degree, you gotta, initiative of the Australian soldier, which it always has been, take it, do it, overcome. It’s hard, but yeah, that’s why you felt like a policeman all the time. A lot of times half the people with weapons, yeah, unless they were firing or pointing at you or aggressive,
it was a lot harder. Sometimes they were just Joe Bloggs walking his family down to the market or something, carrying a gun to protect his family. So, yeah, a lot of that’s not in ROEs and things like that, so you just gotta use common sense, that’s it.
Were there any circumstances or things that you saw where you wish you could’ve had a wider jurisdiction, like to, you know, to arrest someone or to...?
Yeah, at the end of the stage anyway we started,
when we started training their police men and stuff like that, we were bringing them along, and that was their job. We’d go in and do what we had to do and then they done the rest after that, they quoted, whatever they had to do and arrested them and took em back. We were there basically to kick the doors in and bloody cordon and search, apprehend, tie up, disarm, shoot if we had to, and then the police man come in and done his job. Took em back, took em back to the bloody police station that we called it at that stage, but it was hard,
the country was just chaos. Some of the police men were shooting their own police men, so, that’s how it was. We had a police man that’d go out for a cigarette, and one of his own, supposedly police men, they basically set up with some other people to ambush him and just shot him dead in the alley way. So that sort of stuff, it was hard to trust anybody, it was just an endless thing. And then you just get back from patrol and you’re off again, cause obviously once a fire’s out you’re out and going.
What about times where there weren’t those police men with you
was there anything you saw with the locals that you wish you could’ve had a wider jurisdiction?
Yeah, but you can’t, like I said you can’t save everyone, you got a task to do too. You can’t, you can stop and break up things, like stuff that happens with ladies and stuff like that, but yeah you just, lot of times, what are you gonna do? There’s blokes over there been arrested and put in jail for lots of stuff, crimes to women and stuff. But yeah, a lot of
times you just get on with the job you can. And a lot of people coming to you for medical stuff, which was hard, they think everyone was a friggin medic and stuff like that. Like the amount of stuff I seen over there between droopy dicks to enlarged testicles to snake bites to, you name it, people just come up with anything but everything to show you, because they thought you were like a first aid. Which you were in a sense and all this times you’re going, “Look mate, I am but I aren’t,” so
sort’a it was both sides. You’re sort of there to humanitarian aid and but in the other sense you’re still there to do a job, so you can’t stop and help everyone, otherwise, cause you don’t know whether they’re trying to delay you from your tasking, they’re trying to hold you up for any reason, so yeah, it’s different.
Of those, I know it’s upsetting for you to talk about, but can you give me any examples just, you know, for posterity.
For someone that might be watching this in a hundred year’s time, what, can you give us any examples of some of the stuff that you wished you could’ve broken up or...?
Oh Christ. Men sodomising boys, women getting raped,
beatings, yeah, stuff. Normal stuff. That’s how it is I suppose, you just gotta get on with it, do what you have to. That’s how it is. That’s their cultures, that’s their customs. Lot of times you wish you could do a lot more but over there you just do your job,
so more frustrating than a lot. I can see why some police men in Australia get frustrated, suffer from a lot of things, I can see that. But yeah.
How do you think you were received as Australian soldiers as opposed to, say, the Yanks?
Oh yeah, we’re a little bit more lenient to the Yanks. They just come in and kick down, blow up, do whatever.
They’re a little bit perceived, we got at one stage there they were talking about it, they wanted to keep us all there to continue on with our job and stuff, I don’t know whether, what level that was or whether it was a furf [lie]. Furf’s like a rumour that roams around, and there’s a million of them that go on. And it’s, yeah, bloody... just lost the question then, thinking of other things.
How you were received as opposed to...?
Yeah. Yeah, they loved us, they liked us but you didn’t know how far that was. Whether they, cause I don’t know, I think the Australian soldiers, we’ve always come in with sort’a kind hand. We sort’a discipline, sort’a thing, what we have to but then we’d be a little bit more compassionate as well, on the other side. We don’t go just kick, blow up, throw out, kick you on the street and then walk out. Like
several times we went into the wrong place and we had to fix the doors up, do stuff like that, so they saw us as that sort of thing. But they knew in the same sense not to pull the wool over our eyes cause then we’d come down hard on em and several cases of that and that’s where we sort’a got the respect I suppose from the people. We found it a little bit easier in some cases, but like I said, you couldn’t trust anyone.
With the number of things that you saw that were upsetting or frustrating
or angering even, were there also, on the flip side of that, things that happened, reactions from the locals that were really heart warming?
Holy crap, can’t think of too many. Nope, not on the top of my list anyway. Like a lot of them said thanks and that, and there’s a lot of people that were pretty legitimate, but, like I said, that’s just how they are. You’re there today, they’ll
get as, what they can out of you today and tomorrow they’ll move onto the next people, like they moved on to the French, they had a lot more trouble with the French. Cause like, when people got in the wires and stuff like that, we used to just chase em, a lot of times, French and that, they just shoot em, because they’re stealing, that’s how they are, they’re a whole different thing to us. Like we, forever chasing em, I felt like I should’ve been in the Olympics and stuff, I felt like I was chasing all these local people down, Somalian people. And you had no chance of catching em,
you’re fully decked out in all your kit. In the end we used to have runners, where you just drop all your gear and you’d run, and that was it and you had a chance. In the end I think it turned into more of a game than it did anything, you’d win a few bucks if you could actually catch one, so I don’t think anyone got any money. So they were pretty hard to catch, but yeah, that’s how they were.
What interaction did you have with the UN?
UN? Basically when we first got there, they took over
the second lot, but not really a lot, we sort’a had our own sort’a area. UN didn’t come out, basically took over from us, as far as I recollect. That basically they come into us and basically took over when the French come in, cause the French were mainly all the UN and that, but beside most of that time nah, didn’t get to see much of them. Mainly, bloody, the US and that, cause I think at that stage, cause we weren’t, couldn’t have been in the UN cause I wasn’t wearing a blue beret.
I was still wearing the Australian hat and all the rest, so we weren’t under their jurisdiction, until near the end, when they come over. I think it was Solace II [UNOSOM – United Nations Operations Somalia II] or whatever it was, in those days, but yeah.
Were you aware of their presence at all, like that they were watching what was going on or...?
Yeah and no. Except for when someone shot someone and a truck load of people turned up, and bloody everyone got off the back of the truck trying to figure out what went on and how it went on, and why it happened, and are you in the wrong.
That’s another reason why we thought we were police men, cause every time something happened, felt like you get a microscope up your arse. And yeah, so, got a bit in that way and it put a lot of people off in a lot of cases, cause it felt like you had the old big brother looking over your shoulder every five minutes. Especially with the media and stuff like that, cause you had a lot of TV crews and that always hanging around and especially at bloody distribution points, trying to get that advantage photo of maybe an Australian soldier getting run over or
bloody pushing someone or throwing a kid over a barb wire, anything like... They were there for, trying to get anything to either get, whether it was good or bad, that’s what they were there for.
So what was your relationship with the media?
Media. Don’t talk to em as much as possible. And if they turn up, you direct em to your nearest hierarchy, so you send em to your boss, and if he can’t answer it, you send ’em up the food chain, till they go to some politician at the end of the food chain and they can talk to him. Cause that’s not
our job, our job’s to get down.
Was that frustrating having them in your face like that?
Yeah, most of the time they were pretty good, but a lot of times it was always in the back of your mind. But they kept to a lot of their own cause a lot of times it was too dangerous for em or whatever. It was only a couple of times I actually seen a, like a lot of em coming out, but they were still there nearly all the time. I think a lot of times, I think they were hanging more around Mogadishu with the Americans and that,
the green mean machine.
Were there circumstances that Australians were forced to use their arms?
To use their arms? Yeah.
Like in terms of actually firing back?
Yeah, oh, crap yeah. It was, like I think it was the first two or three weeks, you could sit on the OP at the front gate and it’d just be like Christmas trees shooting off in the horizon and stuff, so yeah, there was always
something going on. It was, until we started stamping our authority a lot more, there was lots of, bloody, stuff going on, especially for like contacts, just shootings, how you can call it, probably executions for certain people, but yeah, the same things. Here and there, out in the villages, when you’re doing, out there doing searches and stuff, we used to call em like cordon and search, you’d rock up to a nomadic
town or whatever and obviously APCs and all that. You’d just rock up, two or three’d go round the back, stop, put out your thing, so basically the rest’d get out and walk through the village and that, so if anyone run out the other side obviously are gonna get caught in the net, so you looked at that. And yeah, but a lot of times in those cases we were pretty all right, because most of em, obviously when they walk out the back door and see half a platoon and two APCs, they’re not really in that kind of emotion to think about
firing upon you. They were pretty more in the bandit sort of side of things, where they’d attack ya at night or try and ambush ya or just shoot erratically, bloody from the hip, and stuff like that and then just run away, things like that. Well we had several blokes, shoot em at night and bloody ambushes, shooting em in the markets, things like that. Couple of blokes had hairy decisions
where walking through markets and having weapons put to em and stuff like that and not firing, and things like that, but yeah, that’s normal. As it happens anyway, you gotta expect that. But a lot of times you’re hanging around, it was like everything, eighty per cent friggin sitting around and about twenty per cent absolutely flat out until you’re gonna drop dead.
Did you fire your weapon while you were there?
Heh, never got to fire a round, the whole time I was there. That was very interesting.
Only time I think I had a few choices of it, I think two of them were kids and the other one was that dark in (Negotio...UNCLEAR), I didn’t even have a clue. By the time I got a response, the rest of the section, the bloke was gone, so, didn’t even get a chance. But you take that with a grain of salt.
Can you remember either of those specific incidents with the kids?
Yeah, but I won’t be going into
that. Hurts too much, too much doubt in the back of me head.
Fair enough. When you were talking before about the equipment that you had being a bit backwards, was there any kind of reaction that you got from other forces about that, like from the Yanks or from the...?
Oh yeah, they were always saying that we were using prehistoric stuff, that was in their archives and museums and stuff. But besides that,
normal. That’s what you felt like when you were rocking up, and you’re going, “Oh yeah, here we are, Australian soldiers, we’re on ops.” And they were rocking up and basically, you’re not the laughing stock, cause we see it in our results, just in the results of what we done, that we’re a force to be reckoned with and we can do our job, even though we’re doing it with that sort of equipment. Like I said, Australian soldiers renowned for it’s overcoming.
was your reaction at the time when the Yanks were giving you lip like that?
Oh you don’t take too much notice of Americans too much, their intelligence isn’t too high, so you just take it like a grain of salt. That’s about it.
Were there any kind of home comforts available for you?
They made us some thunder boxes, and you could sit on there with your mate, that’s about it. Nah, bloody, like I said, they had that
kitchen, went there once, like I said. Bloody, Sally man’s hut, but 3/4 Cav were in there so much, I don’t think we bothered going down there, I think they played Light Horsemen fifty million times. I went down there once and went home.
What about, like but was there anything you could buy, like I heard that after a while you could...?
Oh PX store come around now and then, no big deal, American PX [Postal Exchange – American Canteen Unit] store, and then if you wanted to buy cigarettes and stuff, you bought em off
the kids. Surprising what you can do in a country that’s full of, supposedly so demolished and have nothing, you just gotta mention Coke to a kid, and I can tell you now within a week, it’ll come across that border somewhere, that’s how easy it is. And they used to run around their little wheelbarrow’s full of sawdust and that with your Coke in it, and used to, US dollars. And used to buy your, or you started mentioning Benson & Hedges, cause they had a cigarette over there, come from, I think it was Kenya, I tell you now it wouldn’t be legal in Australia. That was a
wild cigarette that sucker, the friggin health authorities would get hold of it, it was like a Winnie Red [Winfield Red cigarette], probably twice as strong, probably like a cigar but a little cigarette, big round sucker. So yeah, cause I smoked when I was over there, bloody, and bloody yeah, used to get that for about ten dollars US a whole carton of Benson & Hedges [cigarettes]. So depending on what you want you just had to tell the kids and they’d pretty well go get it, sort of thing, so in that way, it was different.
So there was money somewhere so it was surprising how easy they could get weapons across the border and that. And it just enlightens in you in the, now, well they’re talking about places like Somalia that they reckon were training grounds for like Al Qaeda and stuff like that, like you see in the news. Anything’s bloody possible, the place was so friggin destructive. Hey, you don’t know.
Apart from Coke and Benson & Hedges, was there anything else that the kids could get for you that...?
Oh, not really, that’s top
of the line, you couldn’t go into too many luxuries. But yeah, they started to get things. Near the end there, like the place was demolished, near the end they started playing I think a Rambo movie at one of the theatres there before we left, and stuff, I think it was Rambo III or Rambo, so it was pretty old and stuff. And they get their pharmacies up, and like, a lot of the pharmacies when we first turned up and all that, most of them I think were more friggin dealing drugs than they were dealing anything,
so good for the pharmacy symbol. So yeah, and it was pretty lawless, the markets were pretty well, like camel heads on the thing and stuff like that, selling, to show how fresh their meat is, and stuff like that. So the markets were a pretty wild place, and they just sell guns and ammo and it was pretty, like that, wild, wild west sort of crap. And then near the end there it was, obviously a lot more reform cause a lot of stuff was gone, the
cat and sort’a all the drugs, and stuff like that just vanished so, we sort’a, you see in that way you did something. But, and then near the end there like CARE agencies and stuff like that, you see them pulling out, near the end there and you’re going, “Yeah,” you feel like you sort’a did something but you didn’t, so it’s hard in that way.
In, a lot of the Vietnam Vets [veterans] that we’ve spoken
to, have spoken to us fairly freely about the seedy side of life there, like the...?
The brothels and the drugs and the, all that boozing and...?
Was there any of that sort of stuff going on?
Oh, as in what, on our sides?
Ah, not that I know of. I’ve always been pretty well raised on, I’ve heard of certain things, people chewing cat, and stuff like that, to keep awake at night, cause they couldn’t keep awake. Besides that, as far as I know, I know I never far out
personally did it. I know of the brothels and all that, that were there, but I don’t think anyone had any time, cause I know I had no friggin time, too worried about sleeping than worrying about that. But yeah bloody, they were definitely there and stuff and they were running illegally a lot of them, cause we had to apprehend a couple of the people that were running those rock shows and stuff. But as in the sense of a lot of the bloody drug drugs, not that I know of.
The Khat that you said that the locals used to use, that maybe a couple of the guys had tried it, do you know what they said the effects were, what it was like?
Oh as far as I’ve been told, it was the same thing sort of like beetle nut, sort of thing, chew it for a while and it’s just like, oh yeah, sort of like that, like marijuana or something like that, where you bloody, it gives you that comfy feeling, or something like that. I’ve never tried it and so I wouldn’t
personally know, I was too worried about that, I couldn’t imagine me taking the stuff and hallucinating and trying to do me job or something. I was too worried about getting shot. But that’s other people’s choices, not mine.
Apart from the couple of days where you said you went to Kenya, apart from that, was there any leave?
No, that was it, pretty well it. You might’ve got a day off here and there if you were, like sick, you’re friggin spewing and shitting
and, cause some of the flu’s and stuff they had over there, oh they were horrendous, like nothing like here in Australia eh, like you’re dying. Like you’re in your sleeping bag and you’re basically spewing, you’re pissing and you’re shitting yourself at the same time and you’d be pretty well in your sleeping bag, you’d have to go hose it all out and stuff like that. But yeah, and pretty well went through most platoons at stages and they didn’t give you much for it. Half the time they just put you on the back of the truck and you go out and do your tasking, just hang on the back,
if you had to spew, you spewed. But yeah, but yeah most of the time there, like, anyway...
Apart from the flu’s, were there any other sickness or illnesses that you had to be mindful of?
No, not that we know. Like when I first got back from overseas I had an eye disease that I supposedly got off, when I was touching some bloke when I was searching him and that, but as far as that,
most of them were the usual stuff that comes with third world countries, especially the blokes that going around with everything known to man. Like I said they used to come to us with some horrendous things, like showing us all their problems and stuff like that, so, yeah.
What could you do for them in the circumstances, were you able to...?
Oh, nothing really, you might be able to give em a bandage or put some ointment or something like that, and then just tell em where the nearest place they could probably go or get some
sort’a aid, but besides that, no. Only thing we carried was for a bullet wound most of the time. Now and then you had a little bit of stuff in your 2ICs first thing, but what can you do, you can’t really go throwing that around, you might need it ten minutes down the road. So, yeah.
I just had a question in my head and it’s gone.
That would’ve been the best one.
Yeah, no doubt. What about some of the, like, convoy protection work that you were doing with the NGOs, can you tell us a bit more about that?
With the who?
With the NGOs?
Oh yeah, NGOs. Yeah, normal stuff, we had a few incidents there and stuff. One of the better ones we had, we were cruising out the front gate there and one of the blokes
in one of the APCs cocked his fifty cal., and he basically stitched up the back of the other vehicle that was behind him and that, he had a run, what’s classed as a runaway gun. So that was pretty hilarious, people jumping left, right and centre and stuff. And yeah, stitched, it was lucky it stitched up, he got off it cause he actually snapped the rounds off and that, stop it from keep going and stuff like that. But he got off it cause the sear obviously had been worn down on the fifty cal. or whatever. So that’s how old the stuff was, all the
Vietnam Veteran era , going over there and wonder why we’re all having problems. Lot of blokes had problems, oh, NGO, I’m rambling on again. NGO convoys, yeah, not too bad, you had to go out, like I said, more worried about if you’re gonna get ambushed or anything like that, but most of the time the road was pretty safe. And if you done most stuff during the day, it was a little bit harder being a desert, you could see for friggin
kilometre, so most of the time a lot of the activity was more night. Day, it was only if you caught em off guard, but most stuff was at night. Like they used to have, go out with the NGOs and like you had to tell them and they had their body guards and you had to tell them to sort’a stay still and if anything happened to sort’a just sit still. And a lot of them were, I don’t know whether they were good or bad half the time. There was one bloke in one compound, I think he’d been
in more conflicts than I’ve ever heard of in my life, especially around that era. Oh he had bullet holes in him everywhere and he slept with his M-16, oh he was a bloody nightmare, I’d dread to meet him in a dark alley. But yeah he’d been in that many conflicts all through the whole country, and obviously merc [mercenary], there getting cash, NGOs basically paying him as a body guard, he was a scary man. But yeah, but the convoys, like I
said, go out, get food, it was basically protection, if anything happened.
Were there night time convoys as well that you were doing?
Not really, tried not to move much at night for that reason. Now and then they used to go up and down the road with night vision goggles on, trying to lead on ambushes in case they happened, to like instigate it, but most of the time you don’t want to move too much at night. Now it’s a little bit different cause the night vision goggles are a lot more advanced now. I don’t know when a soldier’s ever gonna get any sleep any more because you can work
day and night, I think you’ll find most of em’ll be sleeping during the day. But yeah, but even in compounds weren’t safe, we had incidents where bloody, supposed friggin bandits throwing old grenades over the top of the walls and going off and stuff like that, and the grenades, all the powder was too old so no-one really got hurt from it, but stuff like that. So you basically, even when you were sleeping you were fearful and like being in a compound was never safe, so. Anywhere, police, even when you’re in the police, the back wall,
they could throw something over there, it was like, you were sleeping but you weren’t sleeping. Every day was pretty well like that, like a nightmare.
Was there a story you may have for us about a CARE Australia worker that you mentioned that you wanted some chicken and chips?
Oh yeah, we went to CARE Australia there in one of the compound and basically we were there anyway and it was one of the locals that were working there.
And we had a couple of the blokes and they said, “Oh Christ, we wouldn’t mind some chicken and chips.” So they got the local lady that was working with the CARE agency there and he goes, “Oh here’s some money, go down and get us some chicken and chips.” So she rocks up with potatoes and a bloody chicken, so they had to, they were pretty well, wanted it right there and then, but it’s not like fast food in Australia. So she basically plucked it, cut it all up, cooked it for em, made em chicken and chips. So yeah, I don’t think, I think the blokes were a bit bamboozled sort of thing, but I didn’t know what they thought
they were gonna expect otherwise, I thought she was gonna come back with chicken and chips too. But I think they were a bit more flabbergasted when, what they thought, so that was very interesting, but yeah.
You know when you first talked to our office and you kind of go through a bunch of stuff with them, they kind of like us to go back and get all that stuff on tape, was there an incident with a small girl that had been hit by a
Oh yeah, we can go through that which, nah, that would’ve been the boy I got, I know the small girl one, I won’t go into small girl. The boy, like got several pictures, I haven’t got ’em here, my Mum’s got em, where basically, cause a lot of vehicles didn’t have the normal stuff like brakes and stuff, and incidents like that happened all the time. And what happened was just basically we were patrolling this road, bloody, this truck just
coming down, oh bus, didn’t have any brakes and that was it and hit the bloody boy. And that was there, he was pretty messed up and that was the sort’a thing that sort’a they dealt with every day. And it was sort’a hard for us to understand, but to them it was just pulling off the side of the road and continue on sort’a thing. And just the way they live, like they used to steal cars off each other and all the young kids used to drive, because all, most kids that drive, there used to be one bullet about head high,
and that was why the adults used to let the kids drive. So what they used to do is jump out and ambush each other for their cars, so they put one or two rounds into the driver and obviously being young dumb kids, you’re gonna drive a car aren’t ya, you don’t know any better, but all the adults do. So that’s how I think most of the kids got a third eye, and that’s how they, cause they used to steal their vehicles. Obviously it was open law there, if you had a gun you owned whatever you felt like, and that’s the sort of stuff we were going through. But incidents we had,
like, with a lot of the stuff to do with... one time we come up to a village, we’re cruising along in the APCs, yeah, we bloody decided, we found this skull so we put the skull on top of our APC and that, put a few loom sticks in it and stuff like that, being the Australians we are. We’re cruising through this one village and basically rocked up and it was nomadic and we ran into this one building there, and there was this bloke, he was basically, you could see where he’d just died.
And he was just sitting there and half his body had been basically devoured by hyenas at that stage and that, but that was sort of stuff. And then there was snakes, the stinking scorpions. I had one incident, this, sitting at Barakhamba, the police station we had there. And we’re going to sleep and I’m going, “Christ there’s something jumping on me.” Anyhow I’m sitting in me farter bag there, we only had a bit of barb wire and an APC out the front and that, and you basically, protection, you look after, just sleeping next to the wall.
And this thing kept jumping on me, I’m going, “That’s a damn spider.” And it kept like, climbing up the wall and just jumping on me farter bag, it was like I was a trampoline or something. And I’m just sitting there going, “Oh crap this,” and I was sitting there eh and before I knew it, this friggin, thing would’ve been about as big as my hand, crawled on the side of me face and I’ve just gone, about to bloody crap me pants and I thought, “Oh crap, I’ll get rid of this,” and I just went, flick, like that, so I flicked this spider. Anyway and it must’ve went about four blokes down and all’s I hear about ten
seconds later, this bloke’s up swearing and cursing, going off his head, got his shoe and a torch and he’s killing this bloody thing eh. He’s going, “Oh my God, I’m getting attacked” swearing and cursing, and I’m sitting in me farter [toilet] snicking away, poor bloke didn’t get bitten luckily. But Christ, he was going off I tell ya, never seen nothing like that, it was quite funny at the time. Hope he doesn’t see this, he’d probably know who it was now the bastard. But yeah, they’re some of the sort’a fun incident in that sense, but other incidents were worse. We
had a bunch of kids come up with an old pineapple grenade, pin was out, it had the lever was gone and like it hadn’t exploded, and they just walked up to us and go, “Here, you want that?” “Oh thanks mate, I’ve always wanted one of these.” And then we turned around and we tried to get the, so we took our flak jacket off, put it on the ground, put the flak jacket over the top and we called up, “Deemio, Deemio [EOD – Explosive Ordnance Disposal team],” wouldn’t even pick it up. They’re, oh I’m trying to think what they are, explosive ordnance people, destroy explosive ordnance. And their job, they’re paid level six, they get paid heaps more money than I do,
they wouldn’t pick it up. I said, “What do you mean, we just had it, it’s not gonna blow up.” “I’m not picking it up.” So we had to pick it up, take it all the way down so they could blow it. “Oh Christ, and I’m not getting paid level six, I should’a got their pay.” And but that’s the sort’a stuff we had, we had kids come up to us and like, like I said, one day they gave me this one, this little boy gave me one. He just walked up and goes, “Oh here’s this,” and I thought it was the same thing but it was a smaller one, it was actually red this one. And it was a mini one, all’s it had was a rubber label on the
top, and it was, must be like a home made grenade, just push the top, the rubber, and throw it and obviously the timer’d go off, but we didn’t know that. He’d just given it to me, could’ve killed us all. What will you do? Shoot him on the spot, “Don’t bring it to me.” See, so they’re the same sort of things that we went through every day, what’re you gonna do? Found RPG rounds, like, walking around the corner and there’s a kid with a hammer just smashing the top of this RPG round, don’t ask me why. And we’re all going, “Righto, whatever, we’re out of here’ cause what can you do? You can’t go and say,
“Oh look, don’t do that mate,” cause he wants whatever’s inside and he’s gonna smash it until it either blows up or not. Being, probably being inert it shouldn’t, but I tell you I wouldn’t... cause kids were walking round all the time with missing legs, missing arms and that was every day cycle to us. We found it hard cause a lot of em that’s how they lost everything by unexploded ordnance, just kicking something or going to play soccer and losing a foot. And like a couple of incidents we went
on one patrol and we basically friggin patrolling this one area, and it was at night, and we’re just cruising through and we’re going, “Oh crap man, look at this place.” And we didn’t realise it was a bit of a grave yard, and no-one was in it and basically we’re all stumbling around in this grave yard. And when the, after the, we realised after that, for a period of time, cause they used a lot of their soccer fields, that’s where they started burying people and stuff and they used to bury em down near the river side. And then we got the monsoon season
come in and what happened, they started washing up all these bodies and stuff, and there was right near the water way. And cause they used to have a water point down here near the bridge where Charlie Company and all that had a couple of contacts down there. And bloody, it’s just like they used to go up here to the toilet and bury all their dead bodies and then they used to go down here and pick the water up to drink, and then at the same time when they’re having monsoons, and they wonder why they’re all dying
of diseases. And it yeah, you just, I couldn’t fathom the idea of why you’d bury everyone upstream and that, and if so why weren’t you up the other end of the stream getting water. You’ll have to ask me specific questions otherwise I’ll ramble on.
No, no, these are all good memories.
No, I’ll just keep flashing backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards.
No that’s good, anything that comes up, just, yeah, doesn’t have to be in any particular order.
Oh righto, I’ll try not to get into any bad stuff then, I’ll remember that.
But yeah we had, oh here we go, more questions.
I was gonna get you thought to tell the story of that truck that you, the photo of the truck,
Oh the one in there.
that you showed us before, can you just like tell us that story on camera?
Oh well basically we’re just going out doing normal thing, going out and do a cordon search and we were just, one of the trucks basically, over there they used to put all their wheat, solvent or whatever they had, they used to dig holes, obviously it’s cooler under ground.
Dig a hole, put like a bit of a roof on it, and stuff like that, and then they’d put a top over it I should say, roof top, and then they have a little doorway and they just put everything in there, so they put it all in there, cooler and that. And after a while obviously people abandon all this stuff, so it was basically like big holes around and that, it was basically that. And the truck went to turn around and one wheel went down one of these, because obviously all the dust and that blew over the top and he couldn’t see it, so basically everyone had to pile out of the back. Not that
interesting, but yeah.
Were you in the truck that day?
No I was the one taking the photo from the other truck, that’s why I was laughing, everyone else is hanging off the side. It was only lucky the spare tyre I think stopped em from rolling over, God save the spare tyre. But yeah, so they were pretty lucky in that sense. But they had several cases of that, especially with, I believe, APCs backing into em and stuff like that.
And what was the sort of reaction when stuff like that would happen?
Oh, I don’t know, that was friggin probably funny
point. No-one was getting killed and you weren’t seeing people dying, so I suppose you had to laugh at it. But that was like, everyday life. We had, one of me other mates, he had to go down a few of these holes that they used to put all the solvent in. And he went down one and I think he jumped out quicker than I’ve ever seen anyone jump out, and it was a snake down there, and just things like that, you had to deal with everyday life, like especially over there. All their animals and their wild life are like three times bigger, if you got a spider over here you times it by three, that’s the spiders over there, and their scorpions were the same.
Did you come across many scorpions?
Yeah, they were now and then crossing the roads and that, you just keep out of their way. If you made enough noise they usually kept away from you and that, seeing like those water hogs and that and stuff, but they wouldn’t let us shoot one. We wanted to see if we could have one, like they do in the movies, but nah, they wouldn’t let us, too Australian, too politically correct. But yeah, like we go through, like heaps of
like patrols and incidents. But the biggest thing I could say to a lot of people was just the frustration and just doing stuff and not being able to do stuff and having your hands tied. And basically put over there to do a task and not completing it till the end and getting pulled out early and just oh, I suppose seeing all the stuff that you do, and you get to do. The hardest bit I said was women and children,
especially children with weapons. We went through a lot of incidents there, kids, like, oh I tell you an instance, like they had one in Charlie Company [C Company], this bloke come running down the thing, he wouldn’t stop, they gave three commands, in the end they just shot him, because that’s all they could do. At that point in time they just had a contact at the actual bridge at the
water point and that’s the best thing they could do at that time cause they thought their life was threatened. Other cases were kids playing around with plastic pistols and stuff like that, and kids playing with like ones made of wood and that and stuff like that, and they used to like pull em at ya at night and stuff and looking through NVGs, and incidents like that. And they had a kid that was killed in the markets, basically bloody cause he was pulling a weapon and stuff like that
after fire fight and stuff like that. So the, it was hard and there’s a lot of blokes that are screwed up because of it, but that’s how it is, like what can you do, blokes doing that. I’m thankful that I never had to go through an actual incident like that, I had a couple of close calls where I probably could’ve and probably causing me a lot of grief. But yeah, I’m thankful that in the end that
I probably did a lot more to do with compassion, and hopefully I’ve done the right thing in the end.
Interviewee: Dale Thompson Archive ID 1679 Tape 09
Did you do any helicopter ops over there?
Oh Christ, I didn’t get to do much to do with the helicopter. Most of the time we got to see a lot of the American’s fire power, but our boss and that, he got to do a few recces and got a few of those runs but I never actually got into helicopter, pretty everything was on the ground. We didn’t have much to do with our defence force, as in five av. there, it was pretty well all road run stuff.
Now and then they had a helicopter to put snipers into positions and stuff like that on Barakhamba and big rocks but, besides that, no.
The APC stuff you done, must have been pretty hot work?
Yeah and no. Oh, we had heaps of like, interesting and that, like they’ve got all these laws now running around in em, we used to hang out the top of em and stuff like that, sitting on the back deck and stuff like that, racing through and... But,
and then getting to certain areas, cause you’re basically covering, the land was so vast, you pulled out a map and it was like flat, you could just see for miles, so you basically just racing around everywhere, searching all the villages part of your AO. We walked a couple of times but I’ll tell ya, that heat just knocked it out of ya. But yeah, APCs, we did a fair bit of work and that was our, probably our major bloody mobility, especially to do
with VCPs, cordons and that, cause obviously they were quicker than trucks and they gave us armour protection. But oh, with like, like it took heaps of our like, especially to do with my boss I had over there, me officers, and stuff like that, but I don’t know how far I can go with all that sort of stuff. Like our boss I personally had over there was Haddock, like, yeah, I personally thought
he should’ve been sacked, but that’s not my call. And there was a lot of other officers that actually got sacked, and there was a couple that actually got recalled back to Australia, because of their actions and stuff like that. But yeah, you take that with a grain of salt too.
Did you ever, when you went into the markets, were any of the Australians able to buy things?
Oh you didn’t really want to get into the buying things, cause obviously, probably you get a bug and spew up everywhere. But yeah,
we went into a couple of shops, had a look around, as part of your search and that, but it was a lot of people around. And kids would come up to you all the time trying to search through your gear, cause you always usually had your two grenades in one pocket and they try and pull that out, and oh, it was just endless stuff like that. Bloody, but, you didn’t actually buy anything to sort of keep or anything like that, cause obviously you had your bottled water, the Americans brought you water in.
You could have a look at all the meat and the camel and go, “Oh how fresh is that?” “Oh yeah, it’s beautiful.” And we went through the slaughter house one day and that, and that was pretty horrific, I got a strong stomach, but a few other people I think had a bit of a chunder [vomit]. But yeah, that was a very interesting place, it was just like a shed with a couple of chopping blocks with meat cleavers that do, just hacking up camels and stuff like that.
Did you, were you able to bring any souvenirs home at all?
They used to bring back some knives and that but, and most of the other stuff we bought at Mogadishu. And a couple of the markets there that were really sort’a closed in with the Americans and stuff, we got some hats, what else? Oh that was mainly about it, got a plaque made up, what else? Mainly bought some of our stuff, is on our four days off in Kenya too. That was pretty well about the only time
we had time really to sit round, cause it was non stop, you couldn’t let your guard down for five seconds, cause when you did, that’s when you copped something, and that’s how it was, so a lot of times to thing about markets was...
Were blokes allowed to take photos over there?
Yeah, like took as much as you could in a lot of sense, like I got a heap of people that took heaps of photos. I didn’t get much chance cause being a number two scout, I was too busy up front or some,
doing the, just being the eyes and the ears, so it was a bit hard for me to take a lot of photos, but a couple of the blokes got a lot more than I did.
You still, you had a camera yourself though?
Yeah, yeah, you always had camera, eventually for photographic evidence if something happened, like yeah.
What sort did you have, what sort of camera?
Me, I just had a basic instamatic bloody dodgy thing I think I got off me Mum, other people had top of the line water
proof ones and dust proof ones. That’s all I had, I didn’t have no SLR or anything, nothing Gucci. A few other people had that but I was too busy worrying about doing me job than worrying about taking photos and that. Didn’t get much down time and if you did you were in base anyway because everywhere was hostile.
Just something you could throw in your pouch somewhere?
Yeah, well that was it, like you had to, I was more worried about ammunition, water and a bit of food than I was my... Then I had me smoke grenade,
then I had me paint, then I had me two hand grenades, so I didn’t have much room for pretty well anything else.
Actually can I get you to go through for me and just explain what you had on your webbing?
Oh well, basically when I went through with mine, I had, you have your normal bloody crepe bandage up here which is for your gun wounds, and stuff like that. Go down with your harness, at your front you have your two basic pouches and basically they’re full of ammunition. This side I
had bloody, me smoke, I had me paint, which was designed to mark on the walls for UXOs, unexploded ordnances. And then I had me two hand grenades, had me water bottle, had me bayonet on the left and then at the back I basically just had me bum pouch, which either had, I stuffed me poncho in and one meal, a can or I got me two MRE’s in it. And if I didn’t have that and I had to carry ammunition for one of the gunners or whatever, I used to have a two hundred round box. So
that was basically it.
What bayonets did you have on issue at that stage?
Oh we had the Austyer one or fighting knife, they called it then, it’s not a bayonet.
Was that the big buck one?
Yeah, like that, yep. They call it fighting knife now or something, fighting away.
You spoke about media before, did you ever see any of the army sort of media PR blokes?
PR, no. We, at one stage there we had this bloke over, that did a book and stuff like that, and he took photographs. But
every time photographs seemed to get done I think Delta Company [D Company] was out doing something. Even on Anzac Day I think I was out doing something, yeah, we’re out patrolling Barakhamba and everyone else was having sandwiches or some bloody thing, back at the base. But that’s normal, that’s part of life.
So they had Anzac Day celebrated over there?
Yeah. Yeah, they had a bit of a barbecue and that, but that was for the few that they could, that weren’t on doing taskings and stuff like that.
Were you there over a Christmas?
No, we only went there for
the, bloody Feb to May, so weren’t there for Christmas.
Cause you were pulled out early weren’t you?
Yeah, I don’t know whether it was early or whatever, it’s all political stuff to me. I’m basically there, they were talking about sending us there for, keeping us there for another six months and a heap of people put their hands up, I think in my platoon there was two of us, no-one else wanted to stay.
What did you want to do?
Oh, it wouldn’t have worried me, I just wanted to stay, well there’s no point going home. Go home you gotta put up with all this stuff again.
It was more like, not fun, but you’re over there doing your job, that’s what you joined up to do, so why come home?
So despite all the horrible things you were seeing day to day, did you enjoy your work?
It was still an adventure. It was hard because it felt like you weren’t achieving something, but it does feel like you’re achieving something. Like in the end then we pulled out and everything collapsed, they demolished things, you couldn’t understand these people they were like, one minute you’re trying to... There was a
house there, a perfectly good house, and they had some good stuff there eh, they’d pull it apart to build up some of their little huts that have like, a couple of like sticks framed up, cardboard around it. Inside they’d have a bit of a mat on the ground with a bit of grass if they put it on there with, like a potato sack, then they’d have a fire with a dish, and that’s what they’d try and fit their whole family in, instead of all trying to live in the house. So they destroyed a perfectly good house, ripped all the wood off, kicked all the doors in,
everything, and run off. And like us being westerners, they were all individuals, no-one wanted to work as a team, it was survival, at the max. And some of the hardest times we had was stopping them fighting amongst themselves. Like we had cases where we’re at a food distribution point and we run out and basically you give food to this lady, she walks up the road a bit and another lady just basically comes out and starts wielding a knife at her because she wants the bag. What are you gonna
do about it? So you gotta go out there and confront em, you’re out in the middle of nowhere, the lady’s going, basically wielding a knife around like a nut, what are you gonna do? Technically if she jumps at you, yes you can shoot her, technically, by law, if she’s within five metres and she tries to thrust at you, I’ll shoot her and kill her. And then she’s trying, but she’s not really after you, she’s after the friggin bag, so she’s into this other lady, and then in the end, the other lady’s defending herself, so it’s like basically a big cat fight. And you trying to get into it, and
then by that stage the lady’s trying to wield a knife at you, and in the end she’s punching you and the other one’s punching ya. But that’s the stuff. And in the end, so you lose the plot and you just punch em both. Not proud of it but had to be done. But it’s the sort of stuff they put you in.
But that was everyday life. You just, you couldn’t understand, it was so frustrating. It was like, you’re trying to help em and they didn’t want help, but they did, but then they fought over it individually. And it wasn’t, it was just women and children and then like I said, you had to turn people away, you had to say, “No, we got no more.” And the amount of times like nearly getting crushed in crowds and stuff, just over pure fact that all of a sudden someone goes out
and says, “Oh yeah, they’re gonna, food distribution point,” and they got pots and pans. You go to the door, there’s an orderly line of say twenty or thirty people, you go back out and there’s like nearly a thousand. And you’re just going, “Holy crap,” and you’re a whole section of eight to nine men at the max…and you’re just going, “Yeah, okay, how am I meant to handle this?” Because everyone else is doing other bits inside and you’re out the front and you get told to go out and try and get em to come in orderly. And they all wanna get in, so they’re all stabbing each
other, they’re all cutting into each other, and you’re just going, “What am I gonna do?” How do you select anyone? And then she stabs him, him stabs that other bloke and it’s just like, on for young and old. And you just gotta sit there going, “My God,” what are you meant to do, how are you going to stop it? You can’t get in there, you try and get in there and you’ll get killed yourself, and you just sit there and watch it. You’re just going, what are you meant to do? And you’re just sitting there with your hands tied, going... but you can’t do anything.
And half the time in the crowd you’re, most of the time you go out there, if you get crushed in the crowd and that, lot of times you couldn’t even get to your weapon, only thing you can do is probably shoot yourself in the foot, a lot of times you’re out there with a baton. So, incidents like that happened all the time, it was very frustrating, very, very frustrating. Cause you’re trying to help people, they don’t wanna be helped and they’ll just walk over you as soon as the next person that’s there, so in the end you’re fighting for your life.
We had, another time, we went to the water point, oh, what was it, thing, it was like a water point, they were gonna put a water pump there and it had a bit of a tower and we had this gate and we had this flimsy little bloody fence like it was five foot nothing. Anyway and we rocked up there and Heeney goes, “Oh crap, we better go
out there and see what’s going on,” cause NGO vehicle just pulls up, didn’t tell anyone. And like there’s all these little humpies, if you so call wanna call ’em, like thousand, two thousand people or whatever, crap amount of people that are there, you can’t count em cause they’re all piled in there. And we’re in this one area and we’re just basically protecting there so they don’t come in and rip the joint off, cause you put something down it’ll be gone ten seconds later. Bloody, so we go out there and they go, “Oh yeah, they just dropped off stuff,” and just drove off. They dropped off all these pots, blankets and shit, never told no-one.
Next minute there’s like a riot, people are stabbing each other, cutting each other, going off like mayhem and we’re going, “Oh, what do we do?” So friggin, Secco goes, “Oh, you, you, you, let’s go! The rest stay there,” so running over there as quick as we can. We get over there, bloody, we’re in this room, and there’s like, people everywhere. And then you’re going, what are you, technically what are you gonna do, are you gonna shoot someone for a pot?
So you’re going, “Well I can’t shoot him,” so you gotta run him down. In the end you gotta let him go. And they were basically in there fighting each other, cutting each other, like machetes, cutting fingers off, just mayhem. And we had one bloke, just had to laugh, but yeah, and old Goodie was there, he had his gun, and basically this bloke just turned around and he was into this other bloke. And this bloke turned around and he was just about to have a go at Goodie, and he had the gun at this stage, and
he was up on instant. And yeah, so I think he was about a trigger pressure away of friggin, I think this bloke realised he had this gun pointed at his face, that I think he was going down the wrong road. So, and we had that, and so you’re basically in there, trying to do a job, the NGOs made it harder than it should’ve been, didn’t tell anyone and then we had to clean up the friggin mess. And in the end we had to basically run out of there, cause they got angry at
us, so they’re all into us. What are you gonna do, start, go to water and just shoot down the whole crowd? Oh, and then basically, we started going back and we got back into the compound there, and they all basically, everyone up in arms, and in the end we’re standing on the fence there and
that was me and Harrow and all that. And then I’s trying to get on the phone, to get us QRF, and he’s basically going, “We need some help.” And they’re going, “What’s going on?” We said, Nino’s going, “Basically, you better hurry up and get here, I think we’re gonna get over run.” Oh, fuck me. And it just turns out in the end, like there
was bloody one thousand, two thousand plus people, we couldn’t even count em, and we’re all standing there, it’s mainly just us and that was it, the section. And we’re all there, in the end, me and harrow, we’re basically fixed bayonets, cause at that stage I didn’t know, cause they’re all pretty well on the choppers [helicopters], like you see on one of those crazy movies. Cause they all had their machetes out and their knives and that, and it would’ve been a mass onslaught. So it basically
turned out, turned into a fuckin’ nightmare, and it was only lucky, and basically got on the phone, and he was yelling and screaming at em to get someone down here, cause otherwise we’re gonna be over run. And we’re lucky, we got QRF in there, just in the nick of time before they, cause they started to rip the fence down. And then QRF come in, arrived in the APCs, about the only thing that probably saved us I think, cause they were pretty shit scared of the APCs.
And then, yeah, he rocked up, tried to disband em and they were trying to chase em off, so you were trying to chase off someone, who physically you can’t shoot, but they wanna kill you, but to what degree. So you’ve got these people that are sitting on your fence line, basically hacking at the fence with machetes and knives and stuff, and you’re sitting there and you’re going, “Well what degree do I go at?” I know it’s in five metres, they’re an angry mob, they’re pissed off cause we’ve stopped em from getting something,
the NGOs have caused it, didn’t tell anyone, so we’re up shit’s creek without a paddle. And then, and we had to try and get our way out of it. It’s lucky QRF turned up at the time, otherwise, who knows? Only leaves your imagination, especially with only two hundred and ten rounds. I don’t think I would’ve done too well. But that, that’s the stages that we had to handle and
that’s just how it happened. Just gotta deal with the problem and try and over come it with what you got given.
Was that the hairiest moment you had over there?
Nah, was a few more worse than that but that’s one that just suddenly popped into my head that I (sh...UNCLEAR). That’s life. I thought I could control it but I can’t. But yeah, oh I had heaps of those, like that. Physically almost been crushed probably ten plus times,
to death, to the point of nearly stopped breathing. It’s hard, to just, the biggest problem’s just, I don’t know, it just felt like they give you a thing, task to do, and some stages it was just a bigger picture than it could be. It’s like you can handle, like, just imagine if they were friggin, all bandits,
yeah, fire upon you, you can take that, you can handle that sort of thing, you can defend a position. But it’s harder, what do you, what stage do you go to? Well technically by a, probably ROEs we probably could’ve fired, but there was cases where blokes fired into the air and stuff like that, which probably won’t get mentioned, but that happened because that’s what they had to do. Either that or start shooting people.
Does that actually work for dispersing crowds?
Oh, it worked in this case I believe. But
as far as I know, a lot of people, but you had a lot of people down your throat, you had to explain why you did it. And if you come back with missing rounds and that, you had to explain that too. Like I said, you had one on one side and you had the other on the other side, you had all these laws. But that’s how it was, you had to deal with the politician’s side and you had to deal with the realty side. They can give you all the rules they want, but when you’re in the shit, you don’t get time to think. That’s it, you react.
And the only difference between right and wrong sometimes is nothing, it’s just whether you react, that’s it. But yeah. Oh we had heaps of cases, like, same sort of thing. Had one of me mates, Zurnik, he had to jump into a crowd and started hacking into people with his bayonet, and that was to stop em from crushing me to death. And that was all basically cause people didn’t wanna, in the same sense,
well a lot of people that were on the outside they all had fifty cals. And how can you justify that to the UN to save one soldier who he brassed up [shot] thirty people in a crowd. Technically that’s what they probably would’ve had to do, to save me, but it was lucky friggin, that one of the blokes was there. So but that, cause by the time I got out of the door, it was too late, I was out, and as soon as they seen that door open, I was trapped between the door and them, and they
weren’t letting me go and I weren’t going anywhere. So there’s absolute things but yeah, every day life was like that. Got any more questions.
Did you feel like that was sort’a personal when it got to those sort’a situations or did you just think you were between them and what they wanted?
Yep, basically. Try not to take too much personally, but it was too hard. How can you not take it
personally when some people are trying to crush you to death or... but you try not to, or they’re throwing kids at you saying, “Oh my kid needs food.” Or basically they’ve dragged their kid for friggin three or four days, this is how far they walked, with their kids, no food, no water because they knew there was gonna be a food distribution point there, but by the time they got there you had none left, so you had to turn them away. And
that’s really hard.
In some of the situations you found yourself in with a thousand, two thousand Somalis, what sort of numbers are you guys in?
A couple of those cases I reckon we would’ve been no more than eight, nine men, easily. That’s just how it was. The only way you probably would’ve got through it eh, is if you drove over em, same as they had in (is...UNCLEAR). But that’s how it goes.
You had to deal with that, that’s what I said, but then you can complain all you want, no-one listens, just do your job, get on with it. At the time you just shrug it off as, “Yeah, I got through that,” cause you battled your way through, got out, basically laughed about it, and then got over it. It’s not until you start thinking back.
And when you do think back, do you think that the way things were done was mismanaged over there?
Oh wouldn’t say mismanaged.
I think they went over there to try and do what they had to do and I think the job was too big for em. Not as in UN and that, but yeah, in some cases I could say, but that’s, like I said, it’s all political, you get, well why’d they all pull out? In the end when CARE Australia and Red Cross pull out, you know the shit’s gone down, basically nothing’s working. It’s
unfunctionable, especially when their lives are getting in danger and they’re getting killed. So you can’t friggin protect everyone all the time, especially CARE agencies, cause they try and walk around with their own body guards thinking they’re invincible. But yeah, like we, like, what else? But that would’ve been a lot of the frustrating points, and probably the notion of shooting a child, that would’ve been hard, but that was every day
You mentioned that at times you’d almost feel like a padre, all the blokes’d come and talk to you and that sort of thing, did you ever have a chance to speak to any padre’s or go to church parades or anything?
When’s that, that’s time, could be sleeping. No you haven’t got time for that, just endless, it’s just repetitive, you don’t get a break. Like I said, I still know heaps of blokes in the army, some of them are more screwed up than I am, but until they mention it, the army won’t get rid of them.
And some of them there have already got the problems, some of them worse. But, they keep telling me that I’m meant to be, ‘man enough,” to admit, but at that stage I didn’t know I had a problem. I only found out, I think when the army sent me there.
So the NGOs are pulling out of Somalia, when were you guys told that operations were to cease?
Oh, through normal orders and that but
most of the time you just take em, like I said, with a grain of salt, it was all a bit of a furf, but yeah, basically you knew when you start packing up, cleaning up the area. But the biggest time was obviously when we had, I think Solace II the French took over from us, yeah they come up and bloody took over at Baidoa base and all that, relieving party, and they done the formal parade, and the French and the Australians there changed over, flag up, flag down.
So you pretty well know you’re on the way out then.
When that was all ridgy didge [true], what was your feeling towards...?
Yeah, sometimes I didn’t wanna go home, other times I wanted to go home and have a beer. Go home and have a beer. But other times, a lot of times I wish I was still there.
So how did they finally bring you back?
That, flew back again, this time we come by way, I think it was a RAAF plane.
We got two beers, two beers, yeah. Some blokes didn’t drink so the other ones sculled theirs, pretty drunk by the time we got off. We got back and they had a bit of a brass band.
Where abouts did you land?
Ah, Townsville, at the airport, got off there, met family and that, and basically, yeah, just said hello. Said, “Oh go home now,” come back, had to do all our stuff, but yeah. Like I said I could talk for
hours on Somalia.
Was it emotional?
Emotional, yeah and no. Numb by then, didn’t care.
What about when the plane took off from Mogadishu, what was the reaction on aircraft?
Yeah, oh yeah, just normal. Sad. Relieved. Job not done. Could have been worse, was only a couple of months, what was it, I think it was the month after we left when Black Hawk Down [American Operation in Somalia] happened, so that was in Mogadishu.
Have you seen that film?
And what’d you think of it?
The conditions that it portrayed in that film, do they ring fairly true?
In Mogadishu and that, probably with a little bit of more glorified, like the normal Hollywood in it but yeah. Same sort of fuckin’ no one gives a shit, India, kids, people.
Is it hard to watch a film like that?
Yeah, hard, I cried all the time.
Do you find since you were there, do you avoid reading or watching things like that or do you seek them out?
Yeah, now and then they say it’s good to watch, get your emotions out, but a lot of time yes, I have enough trouble watching bloody, stupid bloody World Vision crap on TV, with the children and that. Especially the starvation and that, cause the amount of kids I seen starving and dying,
and watch em dwindle in your arms, especially with the mass numbers.
So you’re back to Townsville to a heroes welcome?
What’s that? That’s probably the same as the psycho-atric fuckin’ test that we got when we got back, that never existed either. They’re still saying, I think in the defence force, Somalia was one of the biggest cluster fucks, especially for friggin de-briefing.
So there was no de-briefing?
Oh who’s got a problem? “Nah, (go see him...UNCLEAR),” that’s about it. I think I had, that was about it... like the same as they have for most other people, no support or anything like that now. They got heaps more support now than we ever had. Like I said there’s heaps of blokes I know that got out as soon as they got back basically. A lot of people with a lot of problems.
Did you have any problems like immediately?
Yeah, well I had a lot of blokes that were labelled with PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder]. I never physically got labelled cause obviously you’re meant to be a machine and you don’t meant to break down and stuff like that, so a lot of times you don’t and you subsided it with drinking alcohol anyway. And the same thing it was not until later on in life you start getting your patches and it comes back. And but it was always there, with the no sleeps, intrusive thoughts, but you’re just wiping em off
as, “Oh yeah, that’s normal, get over that stuff.” And then my worse started I think, I suppose when I had children, is when it got worse, got real worse.
How did that, before your kids came along, how did it affect your day to day work?
Yeah and no, just kept busy, I used to keep busy, busy, busy. Wake up sparrow fart, cycle, swim, bloody go to work, do work, do gym,
swim after work, go home, by the time you go home you’re that bloody exhausted, have a few beers or whatever and you’re pretty well out to it, so that was it. And sometimes you wouldn’t go to sleep till maybe, if you wanted to, if you felt like sleeping, if you didn’t want to watch the TV, like midnight, one o'clock, and then you may wake up at bloody four, depends on how your night is.
Did you speak to anybody about your experiences there?
No, nah, why? Men aren’t meant to have
(UNCLEAR), but even blokes like your dad, he must’ve asked you what it was like?
Nah, didn’t bother. Don’t ask. It’s hard to explain to people that aren’t there sort of thing. Like I said I still got blokes in the army that still shun me now, cause I’m what’s classed as the weak link. Cause obviously I’ve spoken up that I got a problem and stuff. None of them’ll admit it until it’s too late, but, that’s life. That’s their problem
not mine now, I’m out of the green machine.
So how did the rest of your time go in the army before you got out?
Badly, normal things, didn’t know, had drinking problems, punched people.
Where did you go and what did you do?
Got back here, didn’t know I had problems, normal, just tried to do courses, keep out of trouble. Every time like, you got into trouble, it’s just, oh yeah,
you’d write it off as alcohol related. Went down to Singleton done a enemy stint down there for a while, got in a bit of trouble, come back up here. Here for a while, got in a bit more trouble, basically, and then bloody, by that stage had, probably classed as a nervous breakdown. And then everything started coming together really badly then, and then basically and that, from there the army sent me in to seek help, after me
mother took me to the hospital, and that was it. Basically went in there, she took me in there, they diagnosed me, from then on the army didn’t want to know me, I was black listed.
When you were first told by the doctor you had PTSD, had you ever heard the term?
Nope. Never heard the term, didn’t know it existed. All’s I thought it was, was just, “Yeah righto, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” and I went, “Okay, what’s that mean to me?” “Oh, it means your natural reaction to
unnatural things.” I thought, “Oh well, I don’t feel I’ve got that.” He goes, “Oh well I think you have, just by talking to you and describe.” And he said, “You’ve got a severe case.” And I said, “What’s that mean to me?” He said, “Well,” friggin, “that’s probably half your drinking problem, and why we’ll probably, the army’ll probably get rid of ya.” I said, “Oh you’re joking.” He said, “No,” he said, “once this report goes in you’ll probably be out of the army.” So it was pretty hard at that stage.
Before you were told you had PTSD,
what were your thoughts about your career, future career in the army?
Oh well, I was looking at either I was gonna stay around, cause it was just before Timor when I actually got diagnosed and that, so I was looking at either going to Timor for another stint, but it was good to do get out I suppose, own up to meself, sort of thing, I suppose, stop trying to fight me demons. I find it hard now
because you look back at a lot of World War I, World War II and stuff they went through and you’re trying to fathom out how they coped to that degree. But it’s like everything, it’s a different conflict, same sacrifice, so you basically gotta take that as it is.
How did you feel that, given the reason you had PTSD was because you were serving your country with the Australian army in Somalia,
and then once that report goes in, you’re gonna get the boot?
Yeah, felt pretty bad, felt like I was getting shunned upon, getting listed, felt like I was getting used. Like I said, I just felt like, well, basically that was it, that I was getting thrown away with the garbage, in that sense. Some cases it made it worse than a lot of cases, cause I had to fight tooth and nail to get anything, cause they put you out of the army and then the DVA [Department of Veterans’ Affairs] turned around and
said, “You gotta prove that you’re entitled to all this,” and then, so you’re caught between a rock and a hard place. So it gets pretty hard.
How did you expect that you would’ve been treated by the army?
A lot fuckin’ better than that. A lot better.
Cause I mean if you, if you had’ve broken your arm, or done a serious injury to your leg, they would’ve attempted to rehabilitate you wouldn’t they?
Yeah, oh be different, yeah. I’ve had numerous friggin, but I’ve got people that coming up to me now, still in the army,
telling me they got problems, they need help. They come to me. I said, “Why come to me? You shunned me before,” and they’re all saying how they wake up at night, piss in their pants, throwing their daughters through walls.
How did the problem get worse once you had your own kids?
Intrusive thoughts, just everything come back in a flash. Just got
worse. Just like, I suppose, and then when I found out, I started talking about it, and it was like opening a can of worms, and then the can of worms got out, and that was it, you couldn’t stop it. So, in some ways like, there’s been cases of people that worked for fifty years, then they sit down and think and that’s it, ‘boom,” they’re gone. So, oh bad in that way but me kids brought about a lot of it, especially to bring it all back, just with smell,
sight, everything, started bringing back bad memories.
I guess by learning about PTSD and what a lot of the blokes, World War II, World War I, Vietnam, Korea, all those blokes, how it’s, for a lot of those blokes it’s taken a lot longer to find out about PTSD. Are you in a way glad that you found out as quickly as what you did?
Yeah and no, cause I probably would’ve been on a termination mission if I didn’t know, sort of thing.
But there’s cases out there just as bad, sort of thing. Like I said, there’s still people in the army that shouldn’t even be in there, they’re not even functionable, half of them have got drug addictions, the lot, but no-one wants to know. As long as they don’t say anything, as long as they don’t put their hand up, then they’re not classed, they won’t get picked out and they’re still useful. As soon as you mention it, you’re a liability, and that’s how basically I got treated. And this is what I’m saying, to a lot of people, that was it, they found out I was a liability, they
got rid of me as quick as humanly possible.
How long did it take from them being notified you’re PTSD to being discharged?
Oh would’ve been about six months. And I was sent home, wasn’t allowed to talk with pretty well anyone at 1R, padre talked to me a few times, he helped me out. DCO [Defence Community Organisation] helped me out a bit of times, but besides that I was, I wasn’t around, because if people find out that I got problems then millions of other people in there that have got problems.
And then I set about just basically sitting down and all bloody, like I said, and now I’ve got people and mates that come to me all the time, telling me about all their problems. I said, “Mate, don’t tell me.” I said, “I’ll listen now, but,” I said, “go get help,” I said, “before it gets too bad.” And they’re, a lot of them have gone and got help, some are better, some are worse, some are running round in the middle of scrub, just the same as any other conflict.
And the treatment you received
by the army, would that’ve made matters worse?
Yeah. Made you into a black sheep, yep. The amount of times I’ve pretty well come to fisticuffs with ex, oh, people I used to know in the army, basically shunning upon me, like calling you everything under the sun and that, I’m not tolerating that. So, basically everything from malingerer to this. It’s pretty bad, especially when
you’re meant to be one of them. Just cause they don’t want to wake up to reality, “I don’t want to hear about it,” sort of thing.
And what are you doing now for rehabilitation?
Me rehabilitation. Give me medication, they send me to the doctors all the time and I basically bloody sit at home, protect my family, that’s about it, now and then. But that’s about
it, as they say, with that. And I’ve done a course where they sent me on PTSD course, which was good, cause I got to see other blokes from the same conflict. And two SASR [Special Air Services Regiment] blokes, one had a bipolar disorder, the other one, he mentioned a few things and stuff and then phht, he was gone after twenty years in the army. We had one bloke he’d just come back from East Timor, but he lasted two days and run off.
I had an MP from Somalia, where’d he go, Bougainville and East Timor. I had a medic from Rwanda, he was a pretty big screwball, he had some bad problems too. He was one of the blokes there that was saying ‘yay and nay’ [yes or no] for a lot of the people.
Interviewee: Dale Thompson Archive ID 1679 Tape 10
If we pick up from when the last tape finished with, you were telling us about the PTSD course?
Yeah. Oh yeah, I went down to Wolgan yeah, had a pretty good group of blokes down there, it wasn’t bad, they looked after us pretty good. It was good to sort’a talk to other people with the same sort of problems, that you weren’t, excuse me, the only person that had a problem, and it was good, it was good to get down there. Good to,
we were one of the first lot of peace keepers to do the course so it was interesting in that way. It was good to talk to all the blokes but they were learning just as much as we were, cause they basically told us we were younger, angrier, had a lot more friggin issues to do with the government and stuff, but yeah. So, like who else, I had a truck driver from Somalia that was down there,
Jesus, there was a few blokes from Somalia. I don’t know about the SAS blokes, they might have been there, but all their stuff’s top secret. Who else was there? Oh and another bloke who was in Rwanda, so there was a fair mixture of us all down there, all with problems, that the government says that don’t exist, from their bloody thing. And now they run a lot of courses, up here in Townsville and that, especially for the PTSD side of things.
And they talk about trying to bloody do the course. It was good, at that stage I had to do the course to save me marriage and that, cause I was going through a pretty rough time. Me wife still has a lot of problems understanding it and even bloody realising it’s there. And, oh, I thank me mother cause she was probably about the only one that sort’a knew, cause she knew me before I went and knew when I come home, so she sort’a
understand that I was not the Dale that she sent away. She could see I was a different person when I come home so basically from there was where she sort’a noted it and tried to get me help for that stage.
How do you think it has affected your relationships?
With mine? Screwed em all up. This one here’s, hangs on by the teeth, but besides that, yeah. Main reason, kids and that I suppose,
is that you’re still here sort of thing. It’s hard, it’s hard on the kids, it’d hard on me.
How do you think it affects your relationship with your kids?
Big time. Oh they try and talk to me and that and I’ve got no compassion, I’m just like a numb person, I find it hard to show emotion. And now and then like on this I’ll have a cry and stuff, but for me
kids and that, unless I bring up those points it’s pretty hard for me to get pretty emotional about it sometimes. Especially me children, they just wanna hug Dad, a lot of times all’s they’re doing is hugging a brick. Then the anger, that gets bad, so a lot of times you go for a lot of walks. But yeah, so you talk about the government, they talk about a lot of stuff, when they start looking at the children? A lot of us, we signed up to
be in the army, we’re handling it the best we can, but they don’t spend enough money on children. Especially when they got a, oh they’re finding out cases now that most children from Vietnam Veterans are coming out what’s called like a phase two PTSD from their parents, so what are my kids gonna have? They gonna pay for that? Nope. So what do, I gotta deal with it, you gotta deal with it every day. You’re either here to look after em and protect em,
or you’re here to damage em. So you either stay here for that reason or you leave for that reason. So. Pretty hard.
What are your fears for your kids?
Everything. Panic attacks, I get everything Fear for em every day. I fear for em that I actually brought children into the world to go through this shitty arse world, the way it is, and the way it’s going. But gotta reproduce to keep the humans
kind moving. But besides that, yeah, I fear for everything. Then some days, you just go, “Well, what are you doing it all for?” You can’t protect em forever, you can’t solve all their problems for em, they have to learn the way we learned, sort’a thing. Sometimes the hard way, if it doesn’t kill em, it’s a better way. But yeah, I’ve been to places like VVCS [Vietnam Veterans’ Counselling Service] and that, phh, I don’t know whether they did much help, just, like, talk to them a fair bit.
Sorry, what’s VV...?
Vietnam Veteran’s Counselling Service and that, which is provided. I’ve been there a couple of times but yeah, I don’t know, sometimes it’s just as easy to go see a mate and talk to him, he can understand more. I did have a bloody, like I got a couple of mates around, like I go see him now and then and then I go see another one, and they’re all PTSD sufferers, living on life,
sort’a thing. So now and then we get together and have a cup of coffee or a beer, that’s pretty good for talking and stuff.
The PTSD course that they sent you on, what actually happened on the course?
Oh well, it’s basically the same thing as what they’ve been running for veterans for the last bloody twenty odd years. Go down there, you go through your detox [detoxification], you get in there, you just sit around discuss things. Like
what’s your thought, they explain what PTSD is, they explain how it works in your brain, why it works, why you get these problems. Bloody, how to sort’a try and handle it, give you coping skills, everything from relaxation, to exercise, to medication, to getting away from everyone.
But it’s basically the biggest bit of the whole course is just being down there with a group of blokes with the same problem, so you can all just sit down and talk, so you’re not, so you don’t feel like a weirdo. You don’t feel like, what people try and treat you as, as shunned, cause you got a mental illness.
You said to us off tape just before that you were lucky to run into a bunch of guys that were pretty understanding here, that were...?
Yeah, well at first I had to run into a lot of the blokes here, it was only by chance, I was pretty drunk in the RSL [Returned and Services League] and that.
So, and I run into them and they all asked me what I was up to and who I was and that, and I told em and that. And they said, “Oh well, you’ll probably need some sort of counselling,” and stuff like that, cause I didn’t know where to go. And they said, “Oh well, go see these people cause they understand what you’re going through,” cause a couple of them have been through the same road I was going down. And they pretty well helped me out, otherwise I probably would’ve screwed everything up and I’d be living on the street.
And who were those guys at the RSL?
That was ADA [Australia Defence Association] with Ian Dowe
and at the same time I seen a bloke called Clarrie Upton.
But I mean were they, Vietnam Vets or were they...?
Yeah. Well both of em, so yeah. Clarrie Upton’s bloody Vietnam training team, and Ian Dowe’s Vietnam I believe.
Did you join the RSL when you got back?
Yeah, we had it for a while and that but like I said, I’m not much into the RSL, they’ve gone too commercial for
me. Too much worried about bloody poker machines than they are worrying about their old diggers dying off, can’t even go and have a beer in there. They trying to kick you out more, hoping that they’ll all die off so they can get more machines in there, so I haven’t got much time for the RSL. Got a card, I go there now and then to have a meal, just to see me mates, besides that I wouldn’t spend time of day in there.
A lot of the Vietnam Vets that we’ve spoken to have told us that, you know, when they got back, that you know, some of the
World War II guys treated them with kind of...
Yeah, we get the same thing.
contempt that they weren’t in a real war kind of thing?
Yeah, I’ve had that.
What sort of things have...?
Oh not, they, like most of the ones I’ve met have been pretty understanding. I’ve had a few now and then, like over in the shadow, mentioning stuff like, “Oh what’s Rwanda, what’s Somalia?” like Somalia’s nothing. And bloody, they’re there under their cuff, like, “Oh what would they know,” and all that
sort of stuff. Yeah but a lot of them are the same thing, different conflict, same sacrifice so, most of the ones I met were pretty understanding that everyone’s got their different thing, unless you’re there you can’t really quote. I can’t quote on what blokes did in World War I, World War II, Vietnam, I can’t quote on people that went to Rwanda or friggin East Timor, because I wasn’t there, so I don’t proclaim people. But the worst feeling I get is when you get shunned by your own people that were over there and
stuff. They’re all obviously still higher up in the rank structure now so they don’t want to mention anything, cause they might destroy their career or something like that, but they don’t care. So to acknowledge that I exist and I have a problem would to be acknowledge they’ve got a problem, so I don’t exist, and that’s the way the army treated me.
What are your thoughts on Anzac Day?
Yeah I go, turn up.
Basically go there and stuff. But yeah, a lot of times I don’t go too far out, and if I do I’m pretty drunk, cause I know I’m gonna run into a group of people that I’m always gonna have an argument with one of them. Cause they’re gonna find out who I am and what I am and then what it’s for and then their view’s gonna clash with my view, as it always does. Because obviously to acknowledge that I exist, acknowledges they got a problem, so, just, same thing, I just
stock around with my own group, and we go out and look after each other.
Do you march?
March? I haven’t marched in a while. We are hoping to plan, I think march this time, cause I think they’re looking at getting a Somalia banner or something, so I’ll probably march under that, as far as I know yet. We gotta have a look on the Internet or something, supposedly there’s a group trying to put things together.
The ideal of the Anzacs
you had when you joined, how has that changed, or has it changed?
Nah, I still got utmost respect for em, just the government need to pull their head out of their arse and start treating their soldiers for what they are. That’s plain and simple. We’re not just a piece of trash to be thrown away when you’re damaged. Still got functions, it’s just that it’s all about liability now. Christ, I know another bloke who went to Vietnam, lasted I think about a week, got both of his legs blown
off, and he still done twenty years in the army. They put him in there and he just went into the Q stream [Quartermaster] and that, and then when he got out after twenty odd years, obviously with friggin, bloody no legs, bloody PTSD and the lot and then they turned around and tried to get him a job, which made em even laugh even more, but this is the sort of stuff that goes on. And this is why the new army now, and the government, they’re going for rehabilitation and stuff, should have thought
about that a long time ago, before they started all this stuff. When they send their friggin young people to go over to do their dirty work, and when they come back with problems cause they gotta do shit that’s immoral. Or do a job that friggin, and they come back with a few problems, instead of friggin putting them down and treating them like aliens, get em the help they need and probably the damage wouldn’t be as bad, try and cope with that, cause I gotta try and live with it every day.
And my family’s gotta put up with it, everything. Like I said, I’ve got nothing against... I chose to be in the army, I try and cope with it best I can, but it’s the family that has the hardest part, cause they don’t understand, never do. They’re kids, how they understand, they don’t understand Dad’s got PTSD. Dad can’t go out, cause he can’t go to social functions, gets shunned, can’t go to the army any more cause no-one talks to ya. Pretty well
Being that this is kind of a time capsule, if there was something you could say to your kids here for them to see in thirty years time or...
Thirty years time?
ten years time, five years time?
Oh well, don’t sit around, just enjoy your life. Do what you wanna do. Gotta learn by your mistakes. That’s about the only advice I can give to em. All gotta learn their own way. You can give em as much as you want in
guidance and that, but when they get to a certain age, be like the rest of us, they gotta get out there and make their own mistakes, make their own life.
The mates that you had in the army that are shunning you now, or have shunned you, how does that, how to you put them inside...
It demoralises you.
the Anzac tradition?
Oh, I don’t know, it’s obviously cause they’re still in the system,
they can’t talk to you, like I said, they can’t acknowledge you exist, if they do, then you got a problem. But like I said we still got blokes that come up to us now, complaining about problems they got. Waking up at night, throwing their daughters into walls, bloody pissing their pants, this stuff. But they’re not gonna go get help, too far up the food chain, can’t mention that, you got problems, half the army’d get disbanded. All’s they need is help, but soon as they mention help, they’ll get kicked out what happened to me, they seen what happened to me.
Six months, “See ya later,” there goes their house, there goes their cars, there goes everything. Then they’re gonna be out in the street, then they gotta fight like I did, and if they don’t get the right people to help em, they’re caught between a rock and a hard place, what happens then, marriage goes down the tube. I got two or three blokes won’t get out, for that reason, cause their wife said, “You haven’t got a problem, you’re not getting out, we got too many bills.” That’s how it is, this is the world, how it works, can’t just get out and fight tooth and nail. It’s not easy, it’s a
harder road, I know it’s a harder road, I’ve been on it, but some people should take it, or at least get help. Like I said, the army doesn’t handle it right, they don’t, they’ve got no idea how to handle it, they’ve got no idea. Other blokes, his wife was in the army, mentioned he had a problem, went to a course, and she said, “You haven’t got any problem, I’m not married to you any more, see you later.” Took his kids. Figure that out, she was in the defence force. Can’t acknowledge there’s
a problem acknowledge there’s a problem that exists. It’s all about liability. And soon as you know, someone’s got a PTSD problem, gotta get rid of em, they’re too dangerous. What happens if you flip out one day?
What would you like to see the army do to help?
I don’t know, there’s people bigger, brainier, getting paid a crap load more money than I do to figure out problems, but most of them probably couldn’t friggin solve a zit on their arse. But,
that’s how it is. I just gotta cope with life, I’m not Ben Hur, I’m not William Wallace, I can’t fight the world. But yeah, there are problems out there and a lot of our societies and all that, associations and stuff we’re trying to solve em, but the government’s not gonna give in too easy, they never will. If they do then they’ve acknowledged that they’re wrong for the last how many years, for when it all first come in.
What sort of practical things though do you think would help?
Oh God, you ask me too far many questions for me. That’s for people with PhDs [Doctors of Philosophy], I’m just a grub on the ground. But nah, practical, I don’t know, solve the problem in the first place. A lot of times there, you’re gonna go do jobs and that, but why shun em, why not try and fix it. Like they’re talking about rehabilitation now and stuff like that,
some of it’s too far gone for that. What are they gonna do for us?
With the issue of PTSD, they’ve, some guys have spoken to us of guys they know or guys they’ve met that are blatantly kind of rorting the system on it. Do you...?
Yeah, I don’t know. I wouldn’t know, I don’t answer on things like... There’s people out there.
What do you
think of guys like that?
It’s human nature. Oh, well they should be shunned upon, but it’s human nature. It’s like you say, you can’t talk about a politicians down there, sitting on their fat arses. One blokes rides around a scooter who’s told not to ride around, falls off and gets seventy thousand dollars. Figure that out. There’s people down there get punched on a bus, got PTSD, getting what, phenomenal pay-outs, what do I get? And I’m out there doing dirty job for the Australian government. You see me getting any lump sum pay-outs?
You gotta look at it that factor too. Politicians, they don’t mind throwing rocks, but it’s no good if they’re sitting in a glass house. I’m not trying to defend anybody, it’s gonna be human nature, people are out there who are gonna rort the system, but nothing I can do about that, that’s the government and the way they select things. But at the same side of the fence, the government’s doing it ever day. Sitting there, hiring their sisters
and their uncles to drive for em and two mobile phones, we can go on forever, I’m not gonna get into that, politicians. Nah, it’s too angry to even touch on.
You’re still a fairly young bloke, you’re only thirty-three.
Thirty-three! Getting there, thirty-two going on thirty-three, yeah. And mighty good looking I say so as well.
Well I was gonna mention that. What are your hopes for yourself from here?
alive so I can enjoy me kids later on. Try and enjoy life. Day by day. Get through. Seek help when I can. See me doctor. Manage it the best I can and get on with my life. No use sitting around dwiddling in the past. And then hopefully, friggin, if I can, help other people. Like I said, I’ve had heaps of people come to me and I try and put em on to the right people, because they’re out there to help em. Because a lot of em do need help,
and they don’t know where to go and they’re scared, and they’re caught between a rock and a hard place, because they can’t do nothing, otherwise their careers are destroyed.
When you look back on your army service now, as a whole looking back at it, what do you think?
Nah, wouldn’t change a lot, change a few little things here and there. Probably wouldn’t have turned around and mentioned I had PTSD. But, you can’t help that, one day gets to you too much and eventually you crack.
So gotta live with it now, out in the open. Like you say, open a can of worms, just gotta live with it.
What are the best things you think have come out of your army service?
Best thing? Oh I feel proud of what I’ve done in a lot of cases, sad in a lot of things. I’m angry at meself, guilty for a lot of things I have done but, I done em for I believe a good reason. But yeah,
over and all, I did what I had to do for me country.
What are you most proud of about your service?
Proud of me service, probably me active service. Doing me job when I had to. Getting a chance. Wouldn’t have minded staying a bit longer, doing a few more things, but that’s how life goes.
If the army turned around tomorrow and said...
do you wanna come back? Yeah hypotheticals, would you wanna go back?
Only if they got a Jacuzzi. I don’t think me doctors’d let me. Too many people getting poked in the eyes. They gonna let someone pronounced with a mental condition handle a weapon, God, where are you from? God damn. Nah, they wouldn’t let me back in. Don’t even think that, too hypothetical.
So if there was anything else that you could put into this time capsule to say, what would it be?
Oh God, that’s just too advanced for me. Basically bloody, I done me best. Always done a hundred and ten per cent. I think that’s about all I can think of. Put me on the spot like that.
How the old, meant of, thing of big question like that? Bet ya Neil Armstrong didn’t have five seconds to think of his, probably would’ve had it rehearsed, and he would’ve had fifty people with Einstein’s intelligence writing out the phrases for him.
If there was a statement you could say or if there was anything that you wanted to say, maybe like to the NGOs?
NGOs, nah, they’re the same.
Or advice that you’d have for them in future situations like Somalia?
Oh Christ, they’ll never learn, too many politicians in it. It’s human nature, you’re never gonna effect... all’s I can say is, people have gotta stop trying to push western things onto eastern worlds. That’s how they work, that’s how they live. I know it sounds sad but you’re over there trying to stop the inevitable, Kosovo, all those other places. Those things like genocide and stuff
have been going on for millions of years, and they’ll keep going on for millions more and all’s you’re doing is putting harmful friggin Australian people, and damaging the young, same as they did. But given I’d do it again if I was in the army and they told me to go again, I’d go again, cause it’s a job.