Aussie  Army  Issue

​Yanks, of course, had all the gear,
Each was really well supplied;
Combat rations in dark green cans,
Variety seen inside. 

With turkey beef and pecan cake,
And you wouldn’t want to know,
Four-pack ‘cigs’ for every man,
Now what a way to go!

Aussie meals, in comparison,
Bloody dry and dull and bland;
Nothing like that U.S. food,
Whether tubed or packed or canned. 

Small silver tins of ham and eggs,
’Twas a taste you can’t disguise;
‘Dog biscuits’ and that ‘bully beef’,
Rejected by us ... and bloody flies!

‘Date rolls’ included for each man,
Not the type that anyone ate;
Yet little need was there for them,
Constipation was a common state. 

Saving grace came from ‘choccy’ bars,
And ingredients for a brew;
Remaining weight, most did without,
Standard Aussie Army Issue.


*  *  * 

Floppy hats stopped not shell nor rain,
Nor ripping shrapnel from a mine;
Each served some function, I suppose,
Breaking up a round outline. 

‘Brass’ ordered that they be worn in camp,
With at least shorts, socks and boots!
How else to get their homage due,
Demanding their salutes?

Jungle greens, with ingrained red mud,
Home inspections, they’d never pass;
With ill-fitting pants around one’s bum,
Hence our nickname: ‘Baggy-Arse’. 

Khaki socks lined G.P. boots,
Steel plate reinforced their soles;
Protecting feet from sharpened stakes,
Embedded in punji holes.

Wading creeks, or up rugged slopes,
Chafed raw skin once more, again;
Sweaty bodies partly washed,
By torrential daily rain. 

One change of clothes, for each of us,
Having only just the two;
Tough as nails, they’d last all year,
Our standard Aussie Army Issue.


*  *  * 

White P.E. packed in one spare pouch,
Unaffected by monsoons;
‘Dets’ for claymores, in bum-packs stored,
With shell-dressings for any wounds.

Cleaning gear, inside rifle butts,
To keep weapons in A1;
Bayonet hanging on web belts ready,
To fix upon each gun.  

‘Ammo’ pouches around our waists,
Clipped, with loaded magazines;
Smoke flares, grenades and bandoleers,
All attached by any means.

Machete and entrenching tool,
Food and clothes in shoulder packs;
Laden down like mountain mules,
50 pounds upon our backs.

A green plastic sheet, called a ‘hootchie’,
Designed to keep us dry;
Also serving to wrap our body,
Should we be shot and die.

At night, repellent on hands and face,
Yet mossies, we well knew,
Thrived upon this toxic stuff,
Our standard Aussie Army Issue.


*  *  * 

Whilst all required special skills,
Such as being good map readers,
Lethal weapons held, to suit one’s role,
Armalites for scouts and leaders.

Self-loading rifles, S.L.Rs,
Six others held each section,
Pointed staggered, to counteract,
Being ambushed from any direction.


One hundred rounds linked in a belt,
From M.60s hanging down;
Accurate to half a K or more,
That’s what our gunner found.

So apart from basic sustenance,
Supplies for five days, maybe more,
Main items carried at the ready,
Our protection in this war.

A ‘sig set’ carried by one man,
Attached to platoon headquarters,
Tasked to call in ‘arty’ rounds,
Or perhaps some help from mortars.

Packed down with this equipment on,
Nothing else we had in lieu;
Yet very efficient ‘killing machines’,
‘True blue’ Aussie Army Issue.


©


     During the early stages of the Vietnam War, Australian infantry troops were still being required (in some cases) to ‘make do’ with antiquated equipment. For example, the Owen Machine Gun (O.M.G.) had been used with considerable success in New Guinea during the Second World War, then in Korea and later on in Malaya. Yet contacts with enemy forces in Vietnam were under changed conditions and these weapons were soon found to be wanting. The Owen was replaced after the Battle of Long Tan with the armalite automatic rifle for all section and platoon commanders and forward scouts. The .303 had already given way to the S.L.R. (Self Loading Rifle) for all riflemen and the Bren Gun had long been replaced by the M.60 machine gun, one per section. Jungle uniforms still consisted of the tough cotton green shirts and trousers but in early 1967 these were phased out, replaced by the light-weight American style outfits. 
     The green canvas rubber-soled Jungle boots (‘J.B.s’) had been replaced by the more versatile and tough-wearing black leather G.P. (General Purpose) boots (combined gaiter and boot), each of which had a steel plate incorporated into its thick rubber sole. Slowly, the cumbersome packs and webbing previously used for decades also were replaced by the light-weight American versions. Likewise, the very bland Australian ration packs gave way to the tastier American variety.
     Apart from these drawbacks, the Australian soldier was an efficient, well-trained operative. He was capable of total independence at platoon or even section level in the jungle, for up to five days at a time, without having to be re-supplied by ‘chopper’. This poem is a light-hearted look at all the equipment an infantryman was required to carry on patrol.

                                                  “I saw a rain and sweat drenched man in greens,
                                           laden like a pack mule, aged twenty-one going on fifty,
                                                       cutting his way through the jungle by day
                                         to attack the enemy, then lying all night in paddy fields                                                                                         
or on the edge of trails in ambush.”
                                                                                                - Brigadier Colin Khan, ex-CO of 5RAR, 1969-70.

Aussie  Army  Issue

Members of 4 Sect. 5 Pl. B Coy. 5RAR - preparing for a patrol - Jan. 1967                                          Typical 'sig' equipment