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 This is #4 of 7 pages of FAQ

Who was first ashore at Gallipoli? & Frequently Asked Questions, 151 to 200

No one knows. No one can ever know. Arguments on this matter are pointless. Some believe that Sgt. Joseph Stratford (see left) of 9th Bn AIF was, others point to Lt Duncan Chapman of the 9th Battalion.

"Also lying in Pozieres British Cemetery is Major Duncan Chapman of the 45th Battalion, who was killed by shellfire on the night of August 6th 1916. As a lieutenant in the 9th Battalion, Chapman was possibly the first man ashore at Gallipoli on April 25th 1915".

Formerly in the N.S.W. Scottish Rifles, Stratford landed at ANZAC with the 9th Battalion ( a Queensland unit) in the early dawn; there were claims that he was the first New South Welshman to get ashore. One report said he was killed attacking a Turkish machine-gun. His body was never found. All that we can be sure of is that 9th Bn were first ashore. The AWM only say that "some people believe that Stratford was the first New South Welshman ashore at Gallipoli". As the 9th Bn was a Queensland unit and Stratford was a from NSW that claim is probably true.
Officers of the 9th Battalion aboard HMAT Omrah (A5). 

Identified back row, left to right: Lieutenant (Lt) (later Captain) Arthur Cowan Hinton; Lt Joseph William Costin, killed in action, aged 23, at Gallipoli on 25-28 April 1915; unidentified; Lt (later Captain) George Thomas. 

Third row: Lt Henry Cavendish Harvey,  Captain (Capt) Alexander Clifford Vernon Melbourne; Lt P J Boase, Capt Isaac Jackson; Capt (later Major, 50th Battalion) Alfred George Salisbury DSC; Capt (later Lieutenant Colonel) John Alexander Milne, killed in action, aged 46, in France on 12 April 1918; Lt H G Ker; Capt (later Major) John Leaper Fisher, Anzac Provost Corps; Lt (later Major) William McKenzie Young; Major (Maj) Sydney Beresford Robertson, killed in action, aged 29, at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915; one unidentified; Lt William John Rigby, killed in action, aged 23, at Gallipoli on 25-28 April 1915. Second row: Lt (later Maj, 45th Battalion) Duncan Chapman, killed in action at Pozieres on 6 June 1916; Maj William Cavendish Harvey VD; Maj J C Robertson; Lt Col Harry William Lee VD; Capt (later Maj) Thomas Victor Brown, Anzac Provost Corps; Capt A G Butler; Capt (later Maj) John Mitchell Dougall. Front row: Lt Frank Granville Haymen, killed in action at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915; Lt (later Capt) Lancelot Alban Jones; Lt (later Maj) Charles Fortescue MC DSO; Lt Rogers.

Frequently asked questions 151 to 200

  1. What does GI stand for?
  2. What happened if a civilian was accidentally killed in SVN?
  3. What is "Barmi bar"?
  4. What does No 10 mean? ("Numbah ten")
  5. What is post-traumatic stress disorder?
  6. Isn't PTSD just a Vietnam Vets con job?
  7. What is the difference between a bayonet and a sword bayonet?
  8. Was the web belt a weapon?
  9. What is a Soldier's 5?
  10. What is a Soldier's housewife?
  11. What does hob-nailed mean?
  12. What is Stand To?
  13. What is a Dhobi boy, an Amah, a Boot Wallah, Munger Wallah, Drinks Wallah?
  14. What is a House Boy?
  15. When & how did the "Great War" become "the First World War"?
  16. What does "Hurry up and wait" mean?
  17. Who was the worst whinger you met as a medic?
  18. What is a "Dear John"?
  19. What is "Train Smash"?
  20. What is "AIR" or 'A.I.R."?
  21. What was the Ho Chi Minh Trail?
  22. What is a Lambro?
  23. What is a Pioneer?
  24. Why was it called The Light Horse?
  25. Did Australia send 60 Battalions to WW1?
  26. Exactly what was the Hindenburg Line?
  27. How far did the front line move on the Western Front in WW1?
  28. Can you explain the difference between AIF, AMF, PMF, CMF and AIR?
  29. Is Stand Fast the same as Stand To?
  30. What does HALO/HAHO mean?
  31. Why did we not win in Viet Nam?
  32. Are VC medals really cast from Russian guns captured in the Crimea?
  33. Who fired the first angry shots in WW1 and WW2?
  34. Were there any Unit Citations in the Imperial Awards system?
  35. What is a raffi?
  36. What is NAAFI?
  37. What is a 90 day wonder?
  38. What is a tracer or tracer round?
  39. What is a khaki election?
  40. Who was Roger Wilcoe?
  41. Why do soldiers use the term "Say Again"?
  42. Was it hard to send messages before the Army had good radio?
  43. Weren't trenches just a long hole in the ground?
  44. What was the Interim Army and Interim Air Force?
  45. What is the most highly decorated Unit in Australia's history?
  46. What are chats, lice and crabs?
  47. Does the Australian Army have snipers?
  48. What is a rifle's zero?
  49. What is you opinion of the Viet Nam Moratorium?
  50. What is the most evocative thing you have read about Viet Nam?

What does GI stand for?

It is American. GI (pronounced gee eye) actually is G1 (gee one, using the Roman numeral I). GI is a standard normal fighting soldier. G2 is their intelligence section. American soldiers joke that GI stands for 'Government issue". In the same way when you hear the Yanks talk about "Eye Corps" they are discussing 1st Corps (One Corps) .

What happened if a civilian was accidentally killed in SVN? 

There was a standard method of handling the matter. It involved payment of what was called  solacium payment ($35 US), a standard amount paid by the U.S. government to Vietnamese civilians when U.S. forces were deemed involved in or responsible for a accidental civilian death. For a detailed discussion of a Solacium payment see Jim Lynch's article, "Solacium Payment." 

What is "Barmi bar"?

Ba Muoi Ba Biere "33" Export Patch It is a brand of Vietnamese beer. 

Correct spelling is Ba Muoi Ba and it means 33 and I believe that is to represent the alcohol volume (3.3),  roughly a mid strength. 


What does No 10 mean? (Numbah ten)

The unofficial numbering system was No 1, good or the best. No 10 was the worst. Anything could be rated 1 through 10. Later the Diggers introduced Number Welve (12 pronounced by an Asian) as the worst. Number 10,000 was the worst possible thing you could imagine in a nightmare.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

It (PTSD) is the development of characteristic symptoms after the experiencing of a psychologically traumatic event or events outside the range of human experience usually considered to be normal. The characteristic symptoms involve re-experiencing the traumatic event, numbing of responsiveness to, or involvement with, the external world, exaggerated startle response, difficulty in concentrating, memory impairment, guilt feelings, and sleep difficulties.

Isn't PTSD just a Vietnam Vets con job?

I don't think so and I am not a Vietnam Vet so I have no stake in the matter or personal axe to grind. I see it this way.

1) the blokes that came home from WW1 and WW2 were in many cases badly scarred mentally. I know because I lived for several years with a WW1 Digger who was TPI because of lung damage due to being gassed. In the middle 1950s he still remembered the sound made when he crushed the skull of a wounded German because they had been told "Take no prisoners" and you can't leave an armed man behind you even if he is wounded. So mental scarring was not new to the Viet Nam war. Only the name is new.

2) Read the bit in the answer above that says "events outside the range of human experience usually considered to be normal". Now the blokes that went to WW1 were more used to blood and guts because in a lot of cases they did their own butchering . No pretty packs of Woollies or Coles lamb chops wrapped in plastic for them. Their lamb chops came wrapped in wool and were walking in the paddock.

They were much closer to pain & death on a daily basis because even in Civvy Street, people died younger, harder and in much more pain. No antibiotics, no doctor within 40 miles over a dirt track on a sulky, no Medicare to pay the bills.

My point is this. The blokes in Viet Nam were further away from "normal experience" than the earlier Diggers. Whether that has any bearing on PTSD or not, ask an expert, but I think it might.  

Shell Shock and Australian Soldiers - in the Great War - Dr Joanna Bourke

SABRETACHE - Vol XXXVI - Jul/Sep1995 - No.3 - pages 3-15.

Battle fatigue, psychological stress, or neurasthenia continue to constitute a significant proportion of non-fatal casualties in war. It was first seen as a problem of immense proportions during the First World War. In this article, the debates surrounding what came to be called "shell shock" will be examined. In particular, the years between 1914 and 1918 saw a shift in medical discourse surrounding organic versus psychological interpretations of ill-health. Despite the incorporation of these dramatic new medical knowledges into military medicine, the relationship between psychological illness and malingering remained ambiguous. In the longer term, men whose bodies were tortured by their minds gained little - if anything - from the furious debates surrounding shell shock. In the words of Lieutenant Colonel K J Barrett, these men remained the "wandering Jews of medicine".

What is the difference between a bayonet and a sword bayonet?

The original bayonet had no handle, just a locking ring to lock onto the rifle and they were therefore no use as a weapon once off the rifle. The later addition of a handle changed them into a very long knife or a very short sword capable of being used independently and also as a light machete and with the addition of saw teeth to the back, as a tool for felling small trees.


Was the web belt a weapon?

Yes, in the bar room brawl sense, and an effective one at that. Slip it off, (that's easy as there are only 3 to 5 belt hooks and they all have buttons), wrap it around your wrist with the two brass buckle ends swinging free. Grip it firmly in your hand. It extends the range of your strike past that of your assailant and a couple of clips under the ear with the buckles quietens down even the worst drunken yobbo who thinks it's good fun to punch Digger. If he is still a problem rake the steel horse-shoe on the heel of your leather boots down the inside of his shins. While he is hopping around weeping and wailing give him something to take home for Grandma. He will lose interest in fighting, I promise you.

What is a Soldier's 5?

Senior NCOs and Officers were encouraged to have a range of subjects and stories they could relate, as the opportunity arose, in informal meetings of a group of soldiers. They might be waiting to board a truck that was delayed, waiting to do mess duties or in any of the hundreds of situations where Diggers are standing around waiting. These informal talks were called Soldier's 5's, (as in 5 minutes).

What is a Soldier's housewife?

A small pack made of cotton and able to be rolled up, with contents consisting of some spare buttons, a couple of needles, some thread and other bits and pieces that soldiers used to make small repairs to the uniforms and kit.

What does hob-nailed mean?

When Army boots were made 100% of leather, to get some grip on the soles hob-nails were hammered into them. 

It was something like the spikes on a pair of golf shoes but not as sharp.  

What is Stand To?

It means "get ready". At times when attacks might reasonably be expected the whole unit, not just sentries, "stand to", weapons loaded and cocked and facing to the front of their area of responsibility. It is always from before dawn to just after full light and at dusk until full dark. There may be other times as well during the day depending on circumstances. When it is over the troops "stand down".

What is a Dhobi boy, an Amah, a Boot Wallah, Munger Wallah etc?

In Malaysia and Singapore it was possible to hire very cheap labour. It was usually but not always Indian people who had come to Malaysia looking for work. Amahs were mostly Chinese. The Army allowed this because it helped the local economy. There were various classes and tasks:

  • Dhobi boy or Dhobi wallah was the bloke who would collect, wash and iron and then return your uniforms for you.
  • Amah was a female house servant allowed for married couples who were living in married quarters. She would cook, clean and look after your kids. Some lived in your house, some came on a daily basis. Some families had more than 1.
    • In the early days of the Malaya campaign Amahs were paid for by the Army and were available to groups of single soldiers living in barracks at the rate of 1 Amah per several rooms. Something like a house-maid in a hotel or motel.
  • Boot Wallah was the bloke who would polish your boots and shoes. 
    • Click to enlarge Boot Wallah at work, Terendak 1969
  • Munger Wallah (Nosh Wallah) was the bloke who ran a tiny take away food stall inside the Barracks grounds. This is where the name sanger (sanga), short for sandwich, started.
  • Drinks Wallah was the bloke on a tricycle selling iced drinks, usually milk based, inside the barracks grounds. 

What is a House Boy?

This answer is the same as the one above but instead of Malaysia we are now talking about Papua New Guinea. He might be an "inside" boy and do the cooking and cleaning or he might be an "outside" boy and do the mowing and outside cleaning plus the washing.

When & how did the "Great War" become "the First World War"?

  • On 24 June 1944 the British Civil Servants asked Churchill's private secretary which of the following combination of names he preferred as it was obvious that the term "Great War" was no longer appropriate; the suggestions were
    • War of 1914/1918 and War of 1939/194?
    • First World War and Second World War 
    • Four Years War and  Five Years War (or 6 or 7 as appropriate)
  • Churchill himself choose the second option and so it became British and therefore world official and common usage.

What does "Hurry up and wait" mean?

Many things can go wrong with a plan to move a large body of troops. The only thing that is not allowed to be late is the infantry. So, if a move by vehicle or aircraft is planned to start at 0900 the infantry will be up and moving at 0400. Washed, packed, fed, kitted up, ready to go at 0800. All of that time the NCOs are yelling "Hurry up". When the transport does not arrive on time no one is surprised. You just settle in and "wait".

Who was the worst whinger you met as a medic?

Most of the Diggers I worked with were pretty good. The battalion had just returned from Viet Nam, had 28 days leave and left for Malaysia. However some of the re-inforcements we got were a touch on the "whinger" side. 

  • We left camp on trucks for a 14 day exercise. 
    • We got to the jumping off point, up-saddled and started walking. 
    • First break (after 55 minutes) this young Reo comes to me and says that he has a head ache. 
      • "No Problem, here are some aspirin". 
    • Second break (1 hour 55 minutes) he comes to me and says that he thinks he might have tonsillitis as he has a sore throat and a head ache. 
      • "Gee sorry , No tonsillectomies done on the move, just relax, roll with the flow and take a couple more aspirin". 
    • Next break (2 hours 55 minutes) he comes to me to announce that he is constipated. Can't move a thing. How long I ask?
      • Couple of days. 
    • Why didn't you see the Medical Officer before we left? 
      • Didn't occur to me. 

We have had 3 rest breaks out of the 140 (1 per hour, 10 hours on the move per day, 14 days) that we can expect. He has presented at every one so far and with 3 different complaints. Now remember I am doing as much walking as the rest. I carry the same gear PLUS the medical kit. I am there to help blokes that need help, not Mummies boys crying because they are away from home. 

Now the Army had some wonderful stuff for treating diarrhoea called Kaolin powder. It is a mixture of kaolin chalk and opium and it binds you up better than Clag glue or Araldite. 1 pack works wonders.

Now remember this bloke says he is constipated and Kaolin is for diarrhoea. I gave him 3 packs, told him to take them all;.... and never saw him on sick parade ever again. That was 1969. I reckon by about 1987 he would have had a bowel motion. I will bet she was a Beauty.

What is a "Dear John"?

A letter from your wife or girlfriend, received while you are overseas on active service saying that she has found a new bloke and wants to end the relationship with you. They are not uncommon. Many women find that they cannot get through a whole 12 months of not much social life while their lover spends his time having a high time and living it up in beautiful downtown Phuoc Tuy Province getting shot at.

  • It gets it's name from the 1950s song that starts.....
    • Dear John, how I hate to write,
    • Dear John, I won't be home tonight.....

The ones that handled it best pinned the letter to the Notice Board or Darts Board. The ones who kept it REAL quiet were a bit of a worry.

What is "Train Smash"?

Train Smash was/is a famous Army recipe that pre-dates Sweet Chilli Sauce and Tabasco Sauce and all the other interesting sauces now available. Army food in the 1940s, 50s and 60s was bland. To liven it up a bit.......Train Smash. Basic recipe.. Take 1 to 2 onions, 1 or 2 tomatoes, a pinch of salt, a VERY good sprinkle of pepper and start to fry off in a slow pan. When about half ready add a VERY good dose of chilli (fresh, powdered, dried or mashed, depending on availability). Add anything that takes your fancy . . . some capsicum, shallots (spring onions), a bit of celery, whatever. Spoon liberally over what ever you are having for breakfast, preferably some snags and toast, and enjoy the day.

What is "AIR" or 'A.I.R."?

Although not in common use now it stood for the Australian Infantry Regiment that predated WW1. It was a loose grouping of all the States Infantry Units after Federation and before the formation of the AIF. 

There were 98 Infantry Regiments and 23 Light Horse Regiments split up over 224 training areas. The system was designed by Lord Kitchener to overcome the fragmented military system that was in existence at Federation. They were originally compulsorily trained, starting at the age of 12, in Junior Cadet units, after 14 in Senior Cadets and when aged 18 were passed into the "Active" battalions and regiments where they received a short annual training for a further seven years. This system started in 1911. Members of the old militia army had been permitted to complete the three years for which they had enlisted but the only new members allowed into the army from 1911 was the young draft of 18 year old boys. Of the old militia only the officers and non-commissioned officers were allowed to re-engage in the new army.

What was the Ho Chi Minh Trail?
The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a jungle highway that wound through Laos and Cambodia from North Viet Nam. It was used to man pack, and transport by truck in some areas, nearly every single item used by the Viet Cong and large sections of the NVA.

Shown in orange on the map >>>

It is another example of the difficulties faced while fighting a war where one side will openly flout International Law, treaties and agreements that they have signed  and "invade" neutral countries so as to invade South Viet Nam and the other side is supposed to stay lily white and moral while they get shot defending a sovereign nation.

What is a Lambro?

It is a 3 wheeled cross between a motor bike and a small truck used as a taxi in Viet Nam. Lambro was short for Lambretta, the name of the manufacturer.

What is a Pioneer?

In WW1 Pioneer battalions performed construction tasks in the forward area not requiring the special equipment of engineers, such as constructing trenches and dugouts although they occasionally acted in the engineer role on tasks such as the construction of bridges. They had a large proportion of tradesmen and were organised the same as infantry battalions. In a pinch they could and did serve as infantry in the front line.

In later years the work of Pioneers was absorbed into the Support Company of the Infantry  Battalion.

Why was it called The Light Horse?

It was called "Light Horse" to distinguish it from the "Heavy Horse" then still in favour in some circles of the British Army. Light horse was traditionally cavalry made up of smaller men on smaller, lighter horses and they were used as scouts, skirmishers, cut and run, fast and furious, dashing glamour units. Heavy Horse were bigger men on bigger slower horses who did a lot of the "smash through" work.

At the famous "Charge of the Light (Horse) Brigade" the light cavalry led the way and actually got to the enemy guns. The Heavy Brigade was riding behind, in support, and was withdrawn at the point of victory by a commander not in full possession of the facts.

Light mounted units were called various names, Lancers (armed with lances and sabres), Hussars (swords) and Dragoons (short muskets called Dragons, hence their name). They were collectively grouped as Light Horse.

Actually the Australian Light Horse was not cavalry but Mounted Infantry, a relatively new role at that time. Their job was not to fight on horseback. It was to ride to the battlefield, dismount and fight as infantry. The famous Charge at Beersheba was an anomaly bought on by circumstances. Until 1918 they did not carry sabres or swords but were armed as Infantry with the Lee Enfield .303 rifle and bayonets. Regardless of the details, they rode into a glorious part of our history.

  • "Army horses may be divided into three classes - Cavalry horses, Mounted Infantry horses and gun horses. 

    • The Cavalry horses is the hardest sort to get. The Cavalry saddle with full equipment weighs about seven stone, so that a a fairly heavy man, say twelve stone in weight, rides his horse at the cruel weight of nineteen stone. With this weight on their backs, the Cavalry horses are supposed to be able to move from place to place at the rate of nine miles an hour; they are expected to have breeding and pluck enough to be able at the end of a long day to charge a retreating enemy and cut him to pieces. They must be prepared to do scouting work, riding round hills all day, varied by hurried retreats at full gallop under fire. A first-class Australian steeplechase horse would make an ideal Cavalry horse. 

    • The Mounted Infantry Horse. The horse for Mounted Infantry work does not require to be anything like the type of animal used for Cavalry. The Mounted Infantry man gets off his horse to fight, while the Cavalry man is supposed to fight on his horse, and the activity, speed, courage, and docility of the animal are of the highest importance, but the Mounted Infantry man only uses his horse as a means of locomotion, so a much less pretentious animal serves all useful purposes. The Mounted Infantry horse is one that has just missed being a Cavalry horse; perhaps he is a trifle too plain looking, or a trifle too underbred, or a trifle too hard to steer to do for the exactions of Cavalry work; but if he has four sound legs and a body and ahead, he will do to carry Mounted Infantry. The Mounted Infantry horses at the war comprised every class of animal from the very best down to the very worst; they were starved and ill-treated in the same way as the others and, therefore, as a mere matter of survivorship, the Australians are not likely to have done very much better or very much worse than other horses.

    • Gun Horses and Others There are two classes of gun horses required for the Army; the field Battery Horses and those for the Royal Horse Artillery. The former are heavier than the latter, and our 'active draught' animals fill the requirements very satisfactory." quoted from Banjo Patterson.

Did Australia send 60 Battalions to WW1?

Australia raised and trained nearly 70 Battalions but the ones numbered over 60 were never deployed to the front. As well we sent 15 Light Horse Regiments, Pioneer Battalions, Engineers, Artillery, as well as all the support troops. So the common saying of "we sent 60 Battalions" downplays our commitment by a long way. 

Another thing to ponder is that most battalions (each of approx 1,000 men) had more than 1,000 killed in action. They were all replaced by reinforcements. Looking at it that way we sent the equivalent of 120 battalions.

Exactly what was the Hindenburg Line?

'The Hindenburg Line was a system of defensive positions ten miles deep interwoven with machine guns in concrete emplacements, with layer after layer of barbed wire, numerous anti-tank ditches, and artillery placed in carefully sited positions from which an enemy force could be annihilated as it appeared over the brow of the hill.  It also incorporated two canals of the region.  The St Quentin Canal [lay in] a deep water-filled ravine interrupted by areas of high ground where the canal ran in tunnels.

The barbed wire approaches to the Hindenburg Line

The attack came in late September, following a prolonged bombardment which while it had some effect did away with the element of surprise. In the end the advance was most successful at the point where success seemed most unlikely.'

Brown, M., 2001 'The Imperial War Museum Book of The Western Front', Pan, Oxford

How far did the front line move on the Western Front in WW1?

The very first engagement of the Great War is commemorated by a road-side memorial stone. A company of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, in an attempt to stop the German advance towards Mons made contact with a company of German Lancers. That stone marks the spot.

There is a another stone memorial that marks the limit of the Allied advance on 11th November 1918.

The 2 stones are 100 yards apart.

Despite the ebb and flow, the movement was 100 yards, in four years and with 3,049,972 British Empire/Commonwealth casualties plus those of other Allies, American, Portuguese, Chinese.

Can you explain the difference between AIF, AMF, PMF, CMF and AIR?

The Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was an expeditionary force created on 15 August 1914 for service overseas in the Great War . All members were persons who voluntarily agreed to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth (which was not legally possible to order for existing members of the AMF).  The name Australian Imperial Force was chosen by its first commander, Brigadier General W. T. Bridges, as representing its dual Australian and Imperial mission.  Today it is generally known as the First AIF, as a Second AIF was created for service in the Second World War.

Although the First AIF drew many of its personnel from the then existing full time Permanent  Military Forces (PMF) and the part time Citizen Military Forces (CMF) of the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces (AMF), and in some cases there existed a very close relationship between particular AIF and AMF units, the AIF had a completely separate identity. All units of the First AIF were temporary units, raised for wartime service only. After the war, however, the battle honours of the First AIF were handed down to AMF units.

 some of this wording  from Ross Mallett's site (with some additions)

  1. AIR stood for Australian Infantry Regiment.  
  2. ARA stands for Australian Regular Army (used post 1948)
  3. ARA/NS stands for Australian Regular Army (National Serviceman)
  4. ACMF was more commonly used in WW2 to describe the "Australian" CMF

Ross Mallett is correct in what he says and I do not argue. However many people misread him to mean that the AMF and the AIF were not aligned in any way. That interpretation is incorrect. The AIF was administered by the AMF as a separate part of the whole. Primary source documents proving that the AIF was part of AMF can be seen in the WW1 enlistment papers on the pages called Documents 1 and  the WW2 discharge papers on the page called  Documents 2.  These documents show that AMF was in overall nominal control of AIF & ACMF although those Units operated with a degree of individuality.

Is Stand Fast the same as Stand To?

No. In normal terms Stand Fast means "Stay where you are, stand up, come to attention, there is an Officer entering the area". In combat terms it means, "Do not withdraw. Stay where you are". Stand To means occupy your fighting position and be ready for an enemy attack.

What does HALO/HAHO mean?
  • These are 2 different military parachuting terms. 
    • HALO stands for High Altitude (exit from aircraft) Low Opening (of the chute)
    • HAHO stands for High Altitude (exit from aircraft) High Opening (of the chute)

Why did we not win in Viet Nam?

The Viet Nam war was, in my opinion, lost before it started. The people in the north were intent on invading the sovereign nation that was South Viet Nam to "re-unify" the country, even though that meant they had to break every promise they had made to the world about not doing so. The French took a real kicking trying to help SVN in a "defensive only" war. US President Kennedy stepped in with some Special Forces advisors. Johnson came to power saying that Asian boys should fight their own battles. Later Nixon said something along the lines of 'We will win by not being there'.

The REAL problem was that no military man was ever given the command or authority to win the war. At best they were allowed ONLY to defend SVN, never to invade North Viet Nam and kick the living daylights out of the enemy, as we and our Allies have done for centuries.

Viet Nam was a politician's war and they did to it (and 50,000 Yanks and 500 Aussies) what they do to everything they touch. It ain't pretty.

Imagine, if you can, WW1 or WW2 being fought defending France & Belgium  but with the proviso that no Allied soldier could enter Germany under any conditions. It sort of sounds bloody stupid, does it not? Goooooooooooood morning Viet Nam. 

  • There is of course another reason. The generals in charge of the armies of the North and of the VC were willing to take a casualty rate that was unacceptable to the American and Australian public. For example General Giap threw his whole force into the 1968 Tet Offensive in a desperate gamble. He lost badly, in a military sense. His forces suffered nearly as many casualties in that 3 month period as the Allied forces did in 10 years. But he had two huge advantages. He did not have to stand for re-election and his people had no access to TV so there were no complaints from the general population. Giap lost the battle and won the war. He won it in the living rooms of Australia and America on the thing we aptly call the "idiot-box".

Are VC medals really cast from Russian guns captured in the Crimea?

Actually, No, even though that is the commonly held belief. Iain Stewart is a VC expert and he puts it this way..."Inspired perhaps by the Queen's remarks, someone had the happy thought that it would be fitting to take the bronze for the new medals from Russian guns captured in the Crimea. Accordingly, an engineer went off to Woolwich Barracks, where two 18-pounders were placed at his disposal. Despite the fact that these guns were clearly of antique design and inscribed with very un-Russian characters, nobody pointed out until many years had passed that the 'VC guns' were in fact Chinese, not Russian, and may or may not have been anywhere near the Crimea. The Chinese gunmetal proved so hard that the dies which Hancock's used began to crack up, so it was decided to cast the medals instead, a lucky chance which resulted in higher relief and more depth in the moulding than would have been possible with a die-stamped medal." (Don't email me, look at his site and complain to him).

Who fired the first angry shots in WW1 and WW2?

In both World Wars the first shots fired by any Commonwealth country, after Declaration of War, were by an Australian (coastal) Artillery unit. By quirk of fate, in both wars, it was the same one. Fort Nepean in Victoria.

Were there any Unit Citations in the Imperial Awards system?

No. The British took a different approach. If a Unit or sub unit performed "above and beyond the call of duty" a Victoria Cross (VC) could be awarded. 1 only. It was awarded to the soldier from the unit chosen by ballot (name out of hat process). 46 VCs have been awarded this way.

What is a raffi?

A member of the RAAF, as in RAAFy.

What is NAAFI?

It is a British organisation called the Navy Army Air Force Institute. 

It provides commercial services to service personnel by operating boozers, shops, theatres, recreation halls and the like. The Australian equivalent was called Australian Comforts Fund and later ASCO, Australian Services Canteens Organisation. 

<< Collar badge of NAAFI personnel


What is a 90 day wonder?

  • There are 2 meanings. 
    • The first refers to National Servicemen from the 1950s who did 90 days full time training followed (sometimes) by 3 years in the CMF.
    • The second refers to National Servicemen who were chosen as short term commission Officer material (usually but not always because of a university degree which were relatively rare in the 1960s) who were sent to a 3 month "Officer Training Unit" for a 3 month crash course. Against the odds many of them made good officers. Gary McKay MC of Delta 4RAR was a nasho officer as was the bloke who went on to become Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett

What is a tracer or tracer round?

It is a rifle bullet or other round that has a small amount of phosphorous on the rear of the shell. While the shell is in flight it burns brightly (red or green) which allows the shooter to see his fall of shot. Tracer can also be used to mark the approaching end of ammo in a magazine. In a 18 round load of a 20 round magazine bullet No16 should be tracer. It warns the rifleman that he will soon need to re-load. It can also be used as a "pointer". For example rather than say "that tree over there is where the enemy is hiding" when there are about 40 million trees, just put a tracer round into it and every one can see exactly where you mean.

What is a khaki election?

  • An election held when the country is either at war or preparing for war. It is believed that a "khaki election" favours whoever is in power because 
    • 1) people are distracted from local issues 
    • 2) they don't want change and 
    • 3) the current leader can be seen to be strong.

Who was Roger Wilcoe?

Not a person This is the radio call sign used in the RAF and RAAF to indicate; Yes (roger) I will co-operate (wilco).

Why do soldiers use the term "Say Again"?

In the Army the word "Repeat" is kept for the Artillery and it means fire more shells where you sent the last lot. Other soldiers are forbidden from asking you to "repeat" something. The proper term is "say again". If you are on the radio and mishear something the correct answer is "Say again, over"

Was it hard to send messages before the Army had good radio?

Yes. Messages were passed by written communication by means of a "runner" who might not get through to the correct place in time or at all. Many runners were killed in action and many were decorated for bravery or distinguished service.

Many historians believe that the famous Charge of the Light Brigade was started because of a misunderstood order.

Messages were sometimes passed from man to man. Diggers were under stress, not well educated and sometimes a bit hard of hearing from the constant shelling. One famous message started out as "Send reinforcements, we're going to advance" By the time it got to it's destination it was 'Send 3 and four pence, we're going to a dance". (3 and four pence refers to 3 shillings and four pennies (34 cents) and was about half a days pay for a Digger).

Weren't trenches just a long hole in the ground?

Occasionally yes but mostly they were far more complex and sophisticated. There is lots of detail on the page called Trenches in the Weapons section.

What was the Interim Army and Interim Air Force?

During the time, after WW2, that it took to Federal Government of the day to finalise all the details of the new Regular Army and the new permanent make up of RAAF in peacetime, Australia had to have an ongoing Defence Force so these two Units were set up. The difference was mostly paperwork. People moved from the Citizens Air Force to the Interim Air Force to the Permanent Air Force with no obvious change.

What is the most highly decorated Unit in Australia's history?

That depends on the criteria that you use. Some say the AATTV, who won

  • 4 Victoria Cross (VC), 
  • 2 Distinguished Service Order (DSO), 
  • 3 Order of the British Empire (OBE), 
  • 6 Member of the British Empire (MBE), 
  • 6 Military Cross (MC) 
  • 20 Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) 
  • 16 Military Medal (MM)
  • 4 British Empire Medal (BEM)
  • 49 Mentioned in Dispatches (MID) 
  • 4 Queens Commendation
  • United States Meritorious Unit Citation and the 
  • Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation.

However that was spread over about 1,000 blokes over 10 years, longer than any other Unit has been in action.

One the other hand Bruce Kingsbury VC and Alan Avery along with Lindsay ‘Teddy’ Bear, Edward Silver, J Whitechurch, Harry ‘Jarmbe’ Saunders, B. G. Wilson, D O’Connor, F.J. Parsons, Neil Gordon and E.R. Jobe were members of 7 Section 9 Platoon, in the 2/14th Battalion which in 1945 was described as the most highly decorated Section in Australian and British military history.

  • These men, the eleven original members of this Section, between them were awarded, 

    • a Victoria Cross, 

      • a Distinguished Conduct Medal and 

        • four Military Medals.

One could probably find other Units that were the most decorated Battalion or the most decorated Brigade etc etc etc. As the section is the basic block on which the Army is built I would vote for 7 Sect 9 Plt  2/14th Bn

What are chats, lice and crabs?

Chats are lice. So are crabs. There are three types of lice --- head lice, pubic (crab) lice, and body lice. They are all transmitted in the exact same way: close body contact with an infested person, or contact with shared items like clothing, bedding, combs and brushes, and yes, even toilet seats can pass these creatures onto you. They do not jump from person to person though. Lice bite the skin to feed on your blood, and this is what causes the characteristic itching. Body lice were a fact of everyday life on Gallipoli and in France. Crabs were a fairly common result of an association with a prostitute in SE Asia, although it is possible to get crabs in other ways, especially if you are the CO or the Padre.  

Illustration of Body lice

Pubic lice (crabs) Body lice (chats) Head lice (nits) Scabies

    Images not to scale.

Pubic (crab) lice: They do have a crab-like appearance, and are slightly larger than head lice. Many people think they are specs of dirt --- until they move! Crab lice are found in other hairy areas, too: underarms, eyebrows and lashes, and facial hair.

Body lice: These actually prefer to live in clothing, and travel to the skin surface only to feed before going back. You often can’t find them until you look at clothing (especially seams) for the nits or lice. Those who don’t change clothes often (homeless or lower social economic groups) are at higher risk. Though hygiene has little to do with pubic or head lice, body lice thrive in lower socio-economic groups where clothes aren’t frequently changed or washed, or with soldiers who cannot wash or change clothing for tactical reasons.

Scabies These mites are much tinier than lice, and you can’t even spot them. Furthermore, they spend almost all of their lives burrowed into your skin. Scabies are recognized by their tell-tale tracks --- small lines in the skin that look like little scratches, about 1/4 inch long. You’ll usually find tracks in groups at the wrists, buttocks, underarms, groin, and especially the webs between the fingers. Scabies cause intense itching from the eggs and droppings they leave under your skin

Does the Australian Army have snipers?

Yes, since WW1 the Australian Army has had snipers. Sometimes just members of a Unit with a particular skill, sometimes fully trained specialists. Get the full story on the page called Sniper.

What is a rifle's zero?

To be effective the sights on a rifle have to be adjusted to suit the particular soldier so that the point aimed at is where the bullet actually goes. A rifle set for you might fire left or right for me. The process is called "zeroing". Several shots are fired. Where the bullets go is carefully noted.  Adjustments are made. More shots. More adjustments. When it is right it is referred as being set at Zero, (as in zero difference between the aiming point and the point of impact).

What is you opinion of the Viet Nam Moratorium?

I am NOT a Viet Nam veteran, yet I hate and despise (strong words, carefully chosen) with a passion the smug, self righteous, well fed, well protected traitors who thought that attacking soldiers doing their duty and carrying out their orders was in some way a "political protest". Fact . In 1966 when we were well into the war Prime Minister Holt won a landslide victory. The Government majority in the House of Reps. increased from 19 seats to 41. 

The soldiers, sailors and airmen did what they were ordered to do by a legally elected Government. Some long haired slags decided it was fun to attack those soldiers as they returned from SVN, in the full knowledge that the soldiers would not be able to retaliate. So too the postmen who refused to deliver military mail and the commies on the waterfront who refused to load vital equipment, needed by our front line troops. It is my opinion that if you took part in those actions you are a traitor. (Strong word, chosen with care).

What is the most evocative thing you have read about Viet Nam?

From ‘The Odd Angry Shot.’ The dying face; tears pouring, nose running, blood spitting. Remember when you thought, what if he does make it, what if they give him a nice new tin leg and get him on his feet again, how do you tell some randy typist that you’re sorry you can’t screw her because you lost your manhood on a dirt road in a place called Grid Reference one eight three - one niner six? She’ll look sorry in her sweet suburban way and she’ll be busy the next time he asks her out.

Half a man. And so much more of a man than any one of the smug bastards safe at home who stand in the streets and scream to stop the war. Ask him if he’d like to stop the war, smug bastards. At least he came."

Copyright © 2003  Ted Harris. All rights reserved as per Legal page.
Revised: February 12, 2013 .



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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces