War is a negative process concerned with destruction, sadness, misery, pain and death. As such it is quite often imaged in the human psyche as proceeding without hue, except for perhaps occasional splashes of greens and reds representing the background of jungle and the inevitable spillage of blood. Before the advent of computer imaging, war films were often shot in monochrome in order to generate a sense of ‘austerity’.
“The Conscription ballot is a lottery of death ! - Arthur Calwell
Tinges of Reds and Greens
Tinges of Reds and Greens
Though the jungles are green,
From the ones that I’ve seen,
And the mud and the blood are quite red,
Wars appear grey, black and white,
No colours seem bright,
Rather sombre and lifeless instead.
In the back of my mind,
When I press the rewind,
The tape plays slowly, frame after frame;
Perhaps death is the key,
To solve this mystery,
Why the colour remains just the same.
Two good mates were to die,
At the start of ‘The Dry’,
’66 ’twas approaching an end;
A blast from a shotgun,
Took the life of the first one,
Morale shaken when the death is a friend.
The other, he loved horses,
On oval-shaped courses,
His smiling face, so hard to forget;
If Heaven has a racetrack,
I’ll lay down my last ‘zac’,
That ‘Tubby’ will be there, I bet.
His section stalking VC,
A squad of just three,
After a ‘contact’, were all on the run;
Leader, propping, quite calm,
Drew his holstered side-arm,
Turning, aiming and firing in one.
‘Tubby’s’ death ’twas for nought,
That day his young life was cut short,
Snuffed out by that one deadly shot;
Revenge waited not long,
On those three Viet Cong,
A grenade thrown had taken the lot.
Paul (‘Tubby’) Sullivan went home,
Yet sadly all on his own,
Not due to return until May;
Their Christmas was tattered,
His family was shattered,
When that bad news arrived the next day.
Another and ‘Tubby’ met up,
No doubt to bet on some Cup,
On his next tour, in March ‘69;
The young punter, a ‘rookie’,
And the older, his ‘bookie’,
Georgie Gilbert, who’d stepped on a mine.
Now I’ve just gotta say,
From that very first day,
When my mate ‘Nasho’ Noack was killed,
Seemed Lady Luck passed us by,
Yet I’ll never know why,
And our quota was far from yet filled.
Average age of those men,
Really ‘boys’ way back then,
About 21 years was the mean;
From my own Company B,
The tally climbed tragically,
Up to be as high as fourteen.
One in the mud on Long Son,
From a sniper that one,
And nine others from mines on Long Hai;
Another out near Long Tan,
And on that dry paddy sand,
Two out there on ‘The Fence’ were to die.
And yet many more followed suit,
In that deadly pursuit,
Their ghosts haunt a tape in my dreams;
And I know it sounds queer,
These black and white images appear, With faint tinges of reds and greens.
'Tubby' (centre) - his last patrol 4Pl. Ttubby' (2nd on R) at O'Group prior to the patrol. One here suicided upon his RTA.
(Don Clark (rear) KIA 6 weeks later (Both photos courtesy Neil McKenzie)