In the army, the soldier tasked with full-time hygiene duties was known by the troops as ... ‘The Blowfly’. There were usually one or two ‘Blowflies’ assigned to each company of 100-120 men. This poem is a light-hearted look at one of them.
NB. For the non-chemists, the chemical symbol H2S is read as ‘aitch -TWO- ess’ ... It is a colourless, poisonous gas called hydrogen sulphide or more commonly ... ‘rotten egg gas’.
♪♪ Get a little dirt ... on your hands ... boy!
Get a little dirt ... on your hands! …
If ya gonna grow up ... to be a big, big man,
You gotta ... get a little dirt on your hands! ♪♪
- from the song Get a Little Dirt On Your Hands by The Delltones, 1961.
' The Blowfly'
I recall my days at training camp,
And a chap in dark blue overalls;
Always buzzing ’round the toilet block,
Scrubbing graffiti off the walls.
And on parade, he seemed out of place,
As a soldier, marching, not in time;
His clothes were dirty, from the work he did,
Dusty boots splashed white with lime.
So I asked Pete, the cook, who knew the ropes:
“Who’s that bloke there hangin’ ’round?”
A grinning reply, ’twas: “That’s ‘The Blowfly’,
Known as ‘Dirty Bazza’ Browne!”
’Twas the last night out in Sydney,
Someone was kicking up a fuss;
Old Barry Browne, the hygiene wallah,
Refused to board that airport bus.
He was pushing near to 40,
Not like the others in their prime;
“I’m bloody not goin’ to Viet-nam,
I’ve nearly done my time!”
He aimed his rifle at the CSM,
“ ‘Youse’ just can’t make me go!”
Then screwed his face, lowered the barrel,
And clean blew off his big right toe.
So Bazza was raced to the R.A.P.,
And they bandaged up his wound;
We flew over in the month of May,
And Bazza limped in, in June.
His handicap ’twas soon forgot,
About that night, not much was said;
Although it cost him four weeks C.B.,
He’d spent that time laid up in bed.
Not required, beyond where it’s wired,
He was very rarely seen;
’Cause we all kept well away from him,
With Bazza maintaining our latrine.
At our mess therefore, he ate alone,
Oozing a stink I’ll not forget;
Bazza’s travels ’round those pits each day,
Meant the stench was in his sweat.
When our tour near done, the pits near full,
The O.C. couldn’t spare a man;
So Bazza said: “No worries, boss,
I have a cunning plan!”
Instead of filling in these pits,
A lot of work with picks and spades;
He just collapsed the bloody lot,
Throwing in two live grenades!
As bold as ‘brass’, on that fateful day,
Standing at the edge, with a splitting grin,
Declaring to all those looking on:
“Trust me!” then threw them in.
Surprisingly, to those who heard the noise,
Both bangs muffled, so not that loud,
But then in horror they saw arise,
A giant sewage mushroom cloud.
As if slow motion, soaring above the trees,
It spread outwards, then rained down,
Slowly onto troops, staring shocked, amazed,
Who were gathered all around.
Now I can’t describe the smell that day,
Worse than a garbage tip! A rotten mess!
It permeated all our clothes and tents,
Across our camp floated H2S.
Soldiers running, trying to get away,
Nowhere was safe around that knoll;
Base wallahs were even volunteering,
To go outside the wire, on patrol.
It seemed to hang around for days,
Nauseating, pungent and so strong;
All locals now wary of the Uc-dai-lois,
From Binh Ba down to Hoa Long.
Meanwhile, Bazza made this claim,
“I deserve a medal! Helped secure our base!
Those Viet Cong won’t attack us now!
They won’t want this stinking place!”
What happened then to Bazza Browne?
I don’t recall, or really care!
I just remember how glad we were,
When he was transferred out of there.
A rumour surfaced, later on,
It seems his new role caused little strife;
Spending twenty years down there at Malabar,
At a treatment plant, his niche in life.
Now time’s rolled by, we were dealt our cards,
Life’s played by a ‘rule of thumb’;
Whilst fortune smiles upon the few,
Though not so lucky, it seems for some.
At Central Station, just the other day,
Near where ‘The Gestapo’ check the fares,
I had to ‘go’ you see, so I went down,
A flight of dingy stinking stairs.
An old ‘attendant’ was working there,
Mopping silently, up and down;
I recognised him, when I saw the limp,
’Twas ‘The Blowfly’ ... ‘Dirty’ Bazza Browne!