For nigh two decades or more,
From our own Armoured Corps,
No troopers ever served overseas;
Since none were selected,
Like ‘Koala Bears’ all protected,
’Twas a friendly tagging, a taunt and a tease.
Yet centuries before,
Success in a war,
Relied on the cavalry’s advance;
This spearhead of course,
’Twas the knight on his horse,
In steel armour, with a mace and a lance.
Countrysides were laid waste,
Fortress towns often faced,
Attack from some rebel liege Lord;
Enclosed and surrounded,
Forced to surrender, or be put to the sword.
Using siege engines they’d fling,
In a rope catapult sling,
Gigantic, destructive stone balls;
For months they would wait,
Across the moat from the gate,
Bombarding towns and thick castle walls.
Yet, time marches on,
New techniques, come and gone,
In the ‘art of war’, many changes we’ve seen;
In the noble knight’s place,
Rides no helmeted face,
Horse power is an armoured machine.
Atop each APC,
Most troops would agree,
’Twas preferable up there, for the ride;
Risking danger exposed,
Rather than being enclosed,
By a noisy metal coffin, inside.
With moderate protection,
There’s room for one section,
’Twas better than nothing for us;
Through paddies and bamboo,
Across swollen streams too,
Ploughing through slush or red dust.
Having ‘tracks’ for each wheel,
These carriers ideal,
For ‘shock value’, or just for defence;
Though any sudden surprise,
’Tis soon sacrificed,
Before any of the battles commence.
And those Centurions in lieu,
Had two more in each crew,
Commander, driver and two on the guns;
A long cannon probe,
Thick steel skin as a robe,
Gasolene fuelling its 50 odd tonnes.
At Long Tan and Binh Ba
And up in Bien Hoa,
‘Tracks’ or tanks, under heavy fire;
And all those at the front,
Each infantry ‘grunt’,
Felt more secure with those beasts at the wire.
And on these three occasions,
Combat troops of Australians,
Engaged in battle, each fierce and hard fought;
Having not lost even one,
Each one of them won,
After receiving vital ‘tankie’ support.
So in that Asian war,
Troops in our Armoured Corps,
Excelled, and a proud record each wears;
Their mocked nick-name corrected,
Now no longer protected,
Lost that tag of ‘Koala Bears’.
When the Vietnam War broke out in full swing (1965) and various Australian units were dispatched to that war zone, it was noted that it had been many years since any units from the Armoured Corps had served overseas. It became popular to ‘tag’ these members as ‘koala bears’ .… i.e. ‘to be protected at all costs and never to be sent overseas!’ Once the APC squadron (Armoured Personnel Carriers) and later the Centurion tanks had been finally released for service to Nui Dat, the ‘tag’ no longer applied, yet the friendly ribbing continued to some degree.
‘ The Koala Bear ... a docile tree dwelling marsupial, native to Australia …
protected from harm and [previously] from export!’
After the battle - 30 cal. Gunner Dan Kenny at Coral - May 1968 (Courtesy Dan Kenny)