The  Medic

The  Medic

​From B.H.Q., he arrived one day,
No one knew his name;
Assigned to go out on patrol,
Both he and us the same. 

’Twas claimed he played the bugle,
As a bandsman back at base;
Stark contrast to another task,
That all medics had to face. 

‘Doc’ had his own protection,
Yet, no red cross or badge displayed;
Ampoules, syringes, shell dressings,
Given to all wounded as first aid. 

Bandages for torn, shattered flesh,
Tourniquets for limbs that bled;
Mercurochrome for bites or rashes,
Or an aspirin for a ‘head’. 

I watched him in the ‘donga’,
Kneeled in ‘bananas’, in the rain;
Morphine given to mates of mine,
And even Cong to stop their pain.

Unpraised deeds, yet we all knew,
In this bloody awful war,
Politicians safe, in ivory towers,
Never hurt with what he saw. 

A minefield blast, ‘track’ blown up,
Guerrilla war is far from fair;
Few dared move in such a place,
Screaming bodies everywhere. 

Yet, our friend ran forward, even so,
Ignoring such danger, to his goal;
Attending to any wounded man,
Well conscious of his role. 

Click sound, short, still quite clear,
You could see death in his face;
Disappearing in a blinding flash,
‘Jack’ jumping to his waist. 

I recall him now among us all,
His part I’ll never knock;
Unsung man in each platoon,
’Twas the medic, we called ‘Doc’.

*  *  * 

Twenty K’s north west of Nui Dat,
Well away from any towns,
Aussies there were ‘bunker-busting’,
Near Hat Dich and its surrounds. 

Years had passed and left alone,
VC controlled this jungle place;
Trails and hide-outs everywhere,
’Twas long used as a base. 

Charlie Company, of 1RAR’s boys,
Out in front of all the rest;
A trap was set, they didn’t see,
Thick scrub hid an ambush ‘nest’. 

A.K.s spat out from just ahead,
One full section took all hits;
Cong in bunkers well entrenched,
Barrels flashed from firing slits. 

A giant tree, felled by ‘arty’ rounds,
Trunk 1 metre total height,
Lay as cover to hide behind,
Lead crisscrossed, above, in flight. 

Wounded down, in the killing zone,
Diggers screaming out for aid;
The medic, Slattery and Brogan too,
Joining Fuschtei’s rescue raid. 

On a count to ‘3’, all jumped across,
Medic patched one shattered jaw;
Then together, through a fiery hell,
They brought back even more. 

Snipers up in trees, out in front,
“I’ll cover you Doc!”, Slatts’ said;
Kneeling up to improve his aim,
Lethal shot dropped him down dead. 

Fuschtei threw a smoke grenade,
Escape route screened their way;
Images dragging wounded back,
Still vivid with mates today. 

Recalled quite well among us now,
Their part we’d never ‘knock’;
Unsung man in each platoon,
’Twas the medic, we called ‘Doc’ .

*  *  * 

Choppered in to flush ‘Charlie’ out,
Months prior to Nui Dat,
Aussie patrols in the ‘Ho Bo’ Woods,
Around about Ben Cat. 

Across a clearing, Bourke’s platoon,
Under sustained and rapid fire;
Sheltered there in a dry creek bed,
Snipers positioned a little higher. 

Eye and skull, both blown away,
Corporal Smith could not yell out;
Then VC from their firing slits,
Dropped Delaney, forward scout. 

‘Louie’ Bourke, he then advanced,
Crawling on the creek’s dry sand;
Cheek and jaw were torn apart,
Several teeth fell in his hand. 

Calls for: “Medics!” came so clear,
Each one scurried with his kit;
Any fear, they kept well masked,
Like two racehorses ‘on the bit’. 

Wilson, the name of one of them,
Regarded ‘old’ at twenty nine;
Clark, a decade younger then,
Possessed mettle of similar kind. 

Wilson wrapped up the ‘Louie’s’ jaw,
Then racing to Delaney’s side,
Was hit at close range in the neck,
By those snipers from their hide. 

Covering up Smith’s ex-posed brain,
Clark crawled, with his little sack;
Dying as he knelt, among his mates,
Shot point blank in the back. 

On stretchers, hats hid their faces,
At their feet were small green bags;
These two needed no metal I.D.s,
Their kits, their real ‘dog tags’. 

I recall them now among us all,
Their part I’ll never ‘knock’;
Unsung man in each platoon,
’Twas the medic, we called ‘Doc’.


     This poem is a tribute to that special ‘band’ of soldiers who went out on patrol with the infantry to administer first aid and pain relief to anyone who was wounded.         

                                   “I will carry out ... this oath ... to use ... my ability … 
                            to help the sick ... and so may I gain forever a reputation
                                         among all men for my life and for my art!”

                                                                                                                   - Hippocrates, 460-377 B.C. 

                                    “Prayer indeed is good but while calling on the gods
                                               a man should himself lend a hand!”

                                                                                                                      - Hippocrates, 460-377 B.C.

Bodies of Chris Clark and Merv Wilson - 8 January, 1966 - (Courtesy of Jim Bourke)