Green  'Grunt'  Machine

Concern etched on her face,
 Through the window frame, of the train;
Understanding, not a trace,
Her pleas had fallen in vain.
First a husband, brothers too,
Each off to their foreign war;
So ’twas for her, déjà vu,
Now a son’s farewell, like before.
Yet, what things could I do?
Notice delivered by mail:
Refusal meant gaol!
Packed like cattle, stoic faces,
A haunting familiar sad scene;
New pawns to fill places,
In the green ‘grunt’ machine.

      Wisdom emerges with hindsight,
You query: “Why then comply?
An option was refuse them, to fight!
No need to kill or to die!”
   Yet our post-war instruction,
               On their values weaned, we'd been;
Propaganda, seduction,
    In the name of ‘Country and Queen’.
      Listening to legends of old,
Stories so hard to ignore,
You’re no ‘man’, till, so you’re told,
You’d fought like those gone before.
Being the ‘first lot’, ’twas said,
So young and innocent, they’d been;
Unaware of traumas ahead,
In the green ‘grunt’ machine.

Escaping Life’s boring ills,
Psyche directing their goal,
Some ‘Regs’ joined for thrills,
Or to avoid getting the dole.
Those with such freedom to choose,
And their high ranking peers,
All faced little to lose,
These were their chosen careers.
Yet, naïve ‘Nashos’, no voice,
With neither a say nor a vote;
   From the less privileged, no choice,
Balloted berths in that boat.
Those lassoed by this law,
Placed in limbo Life’s dream,
As ‘cannon fodder’ of war,
Pawns in the green ‘grunt’ machine.


Green 'Grunt' Machine

    In the mid-1960’s, when 21 was the voting age in Australia, young men who had grown up in the shadows of World War 2 were faced with a serious dilemma: whether to comply with the new conscription laws or resist. Those who resisted or took ‘evasive’ measures must today live with that decision and the knowledge that others were called up in their place.
     Those who did not resist became mere cogs in a vast authoritarian military machine. Forced to comply under the conflicting threats from civil legal action on the one hand and from the social pressure of ‘doing their duty’ on the other, they became robots for a hierarchy with which they had no direct contact. They surrendered all control under a system of rigid military law. This poem attempts to encapsulate the dilemma faced by those young men. 

           ♪♪ And Sydney lined the footpaths, as we marched down to The Quay …
                  And this clipping from the papers, shows ticker-tape falling free ...
                                   There we were ... in our slouch hats …
                           With S.L.R.s ... dressed in green ... God help us! ...
                                        Some were only ... nineteen! ♪♪

                                                       - Modified from the song I Was Only 19 by Redgum, 1983.

B Company 5RAR ('The Tigers') - January 1967 - 14 KIA : 21 WIA (Author's Collection)