‘Charlie’ was a term used to denote the Viet Cong. It came about as an abbreviation from the radio call sign ‘VICTOR CHARLIE’ in reference to the VC. The ‘friendly’ cane toad referred to in this poem was also tagged ‘Charlie’.
Tom Griffiths snapped a shot of ‘Charlie’ sitting on a beer can ‘smoking’ a bumper one night in B Company's wet canteen (‘The Vile Inn’). Several copies were handed out and one, many years later, was (without authorisation from the photographer) sent as a ‘funny photo’ entry in a competition run by a Melbourne magazine. It won first prize for the ‘soldier’ who had illegally taken credit for it.
“ You will come with me into the smoking-room ... and we’ll see
if you come out the same Toad as you went in.” [said Badger]
“ He’ll be the most converted Toad ever before we’ve done with him! ” [said Ratty]
“ My friends, I am pleased to inform you that Toad has at last seen the error of his ways.” [said Badger]
♪♪ The Army all saluted ... as they marched along the road!
Was it the King? ... Or Kitchener? ... No! ... It was Mr. Toad! ♪♪ [sung by Toad]
- all from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, 1908.
Hard rain pelting down, as usual,
Heat unrelenting, this night;
‘Pawns’ not on guard, in the ‘rec hut’,
Two lanterns providing crude light.
One ‘grunt’, acting barman,
Ten cents only per can;
Warm Yankee beer, as a coolant,
Yet, 2 the limit, per man.
In our green tattered marquee,
Leaking, with all flaps unrolled;
Between walls caked thick with mould.
Aged faces of mere ‘boys’,
Smiling, wet, yet far drier,
Than those alert in that black zone,
Near and beyond the barbed wire.
And a regular sight, every night,
’Twas the Uc-dai-lois’ first monsoon,
A stranger would suddenly appear,
To an accompanying tune.
Warty, dark grey and quite ugly,
A slimy Asian cane toad,
Like our enemy, the Viet Cong,
Called just ‘Charlie’, in code.
Emerging out from his hide,
Arrival announced, when he woke;
Leaping up onto our bar plank,
Or lap of some surprised bloke.
Having guzzled his usual,
A drink of stiff rum and coke,
‘Charlie’ relaxed on a beer can,
Puffed on a roll-your-own smoke.
Camera poised, always ready,
Recording sights, or places he’d been;
So there’s this photo by ‘Griffo’,
Of this strange graphic scene.
In the background, smile young men,
Though other ‘Charlies’, lurked outside;
And before this tour was over,
They and fourteen present, had died.