The Self Loading Rifle (S.L.R.) was the standard weapon issued to the Australian infantry during the Vietnam War. It was a most reliable and powerful semi-automatic weapon, weighing about 5kg with a fully loaded magazine of twenty 7.62 mm rounds. Its large stock and butt were made of pale brown Tasmanian Oak timber. It operated by a gas returned breech mechanism. The breech area itself, ventral magazine and barrel were gun metal black.
This poem is a light-hearted look at an Australian soldier’s ‘best friend’ during the Vietnam War.
♪♪ ‘HAVE GUN - WILL TRAVEL’
Reads the card ... of a man!
A knight without armour,
In a sa-a-vage land ... ! ♪♪
- from the song Ballad of Paladin (in TV series Have Gun-Will Travel) by Johnny Western, 1960.
My Ol' 'Slur'
And I called her my ‘slur’,
’Twas my nickname for her,
Shacked up with me at night ‘round that hill;
With nerves made of steel,
Yet, soft and smooth ’twas her feel,
A brown-black beauty, with looks that could kill.
Although a little overweight,
This silent girl was my mate,
And when angry she was really quite loud;
Today she’s well past her prime,
Replaced by new models with time,
Still, back then she stood out in the crowd.
’Cause I marched with her too,
And people watching all knew,
Who it was, parading there by my side;
And that she’d help me return,
Using skills we’d both learn,
Separated only if one of us died.
Feeling safe and secure,
Through my 12 month long tour,
In those jungles of South Viet-Nam;
And wherever I’d go,
That bond between us would grow,
With her cradled there under my arm.
No respite from her chore,
During the entire damn war,
Although then, no requirement to drill;
Just twenty pellets for feed,
Wrapped in magazines she’d not read,
And unlike me, she never fell ill.
Brimming over with pride,
I served as her constant guide,
Controlling that power, she’d often reveal;
Like a robot machine,
Always spit-polished and clean,
Caring for her was part of the deal.
And so once every day,
In a ritual display,
I’d treat her as if she was royal;
Laying her out on the ground,
Stripping her right down,
Massage her body in oodles of oil.
A huge part of my life,
Protecting her like a wife,
Or a teenager pampering his car;
Never out of my sight,
Every day and each night,
She was my rifle, my old S.L.R.
My Ol' 'Slur'