Hello there Mum,
The Base Wallah
During the Vietnam War only a small percentage of soldiers (perhaps around 10%) fulfilled a combat role. The remainder carried out their duties in relatively safe zones such as Saigon, Vung Tau, Bien Hoa or Nui Dat. Whilst it is readily acknowledged that each of these ‘base wallahs’ carried out an essential role whatever that duty may have been, there has always been a degree of contempt for those who have many years down the track attempted to embellish the tasks they had carried out during the war. There are of course those ‘base wallahs’ who genuinely believe that they ... ‘did it tough’. This poem is a light-hearted tribute to one such ‘base wallah’.
“If I were fierce and bald and short of breath,
I'd live with scarlet majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death!”
- Siegfried Sassoon in Base Details, 1917.
“The 12 month long tour would be acceptable for non-combat troops.
I saw a lot of fat men up at TFHQ and down at ALSG in Vung Tau where
they developed quite good suntans and pot bellies.”
- Lt. ‘Nobby’ Clarke in On the Offensive.
Magazines, relaxation,beer, music, 'chairs millionaires' etc were the lot of the typical 'base wallah' in Vietnam.
The Base Wallah
Just a quick word,
Now I’ve this chance to write;
Sure miss your cooking and ironing,
And tucking me in, late at night!
On leave last week, here in Vung Tau,
Returned to camp very late,
And so these bastards back here,
Put me on guard, at the gate.
Bit of a worry next day,
Riding ‘shotgun’ I sat;
In the front seat of a convoy,
Up to that hill Nui Dat.
How I do envy those ‘boys’,
Out there in the ‘J’, everyday,
Getting to stroll in the shade,
While we sweat in sun, for our pay.
Even get to fire their guns,
Live ‘ammo’ used by each;
While we just lie around or swim,
Down here at the beach.
I tell ya! Stress gets to some!
One bloke, up to ‘The Dat’ was sent,
So got back at his ‘Louie’,
By throwing a ‘frag’ in his tent.
Work load’s recently been eased,
Before each morning’s parade,
Now local ‘hut girls’ clean up,
And ensure all beds are made.
At night there’s a movie, or two,
For those who don’t go on leave;
Entertainers play here tomorrow!
It’s our turn again, I believe!
You know, we don’t get much pay,
’Tis hard to save up, so I’ve found,
Knocking off at 4.00 in the ‘arvo’,
When I usually head into town.
And last night was real scary,
An alert, for a base firefight;
Phew! But just a streak in the sky,
From an old space satellite.
Rain is annoying and noisy,
From tropical monsoons;
So a daily siesta allowed us,
From lack of sleep, on these dunes.
Our new club has a bar and pool,
Courts, cricket pitch and all that;
Although ruined somewhat now,
By blokes on leave from ‘The Dat’.
And I got crook whilst on duty,
Shifting papers and files;
Saw the ‘Doc’ and he told me,
Sitting around causes piles!
My R ‘n’ R was in Bangkok,
Have a ‘groin pain’, sure seems bad;
Can't wait to get home to ‘Aussie’,
And spin some ‘warries’ with dad.
Like yesterday, at the ‘rec’ hut,
I was wounded, playing darts;
A damned Yank would be awarded,
One of those bloody Purple Hearts!
When I return to Australia,
You know, I might write a book;
Tell of all my experiences,
And dangerous risks that I took.
And I’ll apply for a pension,
For stress in this ‘Special Zone’;
After I get my promotion, and ‘Super’,
And a War Service Home Loan.
I have to report in one hour,
A volley-ball game should be fun!
So I’ll have to go now and rest up!
- Bye ... from your loving son.