Mates  I  Once  Knew


As my mind drops back, through the years,
I’m once again standing there;
Young faces come into focus,
Unsmiling, eyes distant, that stare.

Tents camouflaged green in the shade,
Homes without windows, just rolled flaps, no doors;
Each tied to tree trunks in rows,
Red gluey mud on all floors. 

Barbed wire through that ‘rubber’,
Camp surrounded like a gaol;
‘Boys’ anxious with excitement,
As Sam our ‘Sarge’ hands out mail. 

And short silver hair, beneath bush hat,
Strange, for one who’s so young;
‘Borg’, placid, deceptive,
‘Johnno’s’ No. 2 on the Gun. 

Colin (‘Cogsey’) Cogswell, called ‘Nightmare’,
In his last year of teens;
Sending shivers down our spines,
Yelling out at night in bad dreams. 

And blonde-haired Douggy, chain smoking,
Absorbed in some euchre card game;
Other scout reading old ‘form guide’,
‘P.J. The Punter’ his name. 

‘Sin Cities’ of Saigon and Vung Tau,
Providing whatever one likes;
‘Everything’ bartered from dealers,
‘Cowboys’ without horses, riding bikes. 

And strange signs hung on shop doors,
Price lists for a haircut or shave;
Yet inside there’s no barber,
Just girls and favours each gave. 

There’s rare beauty in those bars,
So, before having to go back;
Brief escape into ‘the blue’,
Having emerged from ‘the black’. 

As they sit ‘round relaxing,
All these young men in their prime,
Laughing, pretending,
Knowing that soon it was time. 

Suddenly, like pack-mules,
Awaiting some signal, a sign;
Then out through the barbed wire,
What thoughts haunt each mind? 

It’s said: “Age Shall Not Weary!”
And for some that is true;
Also, for each image,
Of those mates I once knew!


©


6 Section 5 Platoon 5 RAR - August 1966

      The Australian concept of ‘mateship’ is a bond forged between all those who share personal experiences, especially so if they involve hardship and danger. No stronger, more enduring bonds could match those forged between combat soldiers.   

                                                 “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
                                                    For he today that sheds his blood with me …
                                                   Shall be my brother! ...”

                                                                                               - from Shakespeare’s Henry V.

Mates  I  Once  Knew