GOTTA HAND A MAN A SPANNER By Michael Hall, 8/9 RAR
Heavy Weapons 8/9 RAR were asked to attend an exercise in support of 6 RAR Company Group plus elements of 6 RAR support company – to act as enemy for a 3 BDE exercise in Pucka. If my memory serves me right, it was the early ’90s.
Off we went to Pucka – it was the middle of summer. The gun buggies were loaded and 105s were on board with all CES and Charlie Gutsache etc. The vehicles were being hauled to Pucka by road train and we were to meet the cars when we got to Pucka.
Off we went on the C130 and trucked out to Pucka – we weren’t even out of Melbourne and some wanker threw a durrie butt into the shroud\scrim hanging off the side of the Mog. Up she went – burned well with air being forced over it at 80 km\h. The dullard driver would not stop – even after banging on the roof of the cab and civvies tooting at him and pointing at the fire. A disaster was averted with 20 L of H2O down range and we were back on the road to sunny Pucka – what a great start!
We got to Pucka – Camp X-Ray – which was miles from nowhere. It would be our home for the coming days in lead up to the exercise. As usual, it was a total cluster with no one knowing what was going on. We had the usual briefs – where, how, what to do… blah, blah, blah…
Day 2 rolled around. We did some training, a shakeout of equipment and waited for the gun carriers to turn up. The platoon was ecstatic when we were given the good oil to go pick up our relics. Back at Camp X-ray we were going over the carriers – all good, ready for the exercise. Morale was high.
That evening the OC gave everyone the good news of an open camp – we could go to 1 Armd Regt boozer – only a kilometre over in that direction he pointed.
With that we were off – you ripper! One kilometre later, we were walking past the guard room and saw poor Tankie standing out the front, guarding the road and operating the boom gate into the place – in polys. Suck it up, mate. We were off to get a skinful!
All this under the watchful eye of the DNCO, BOS and we later found out the RSM 1 Armd Regt. As soon as we set foot on his turf, he was bellowing from the HQ – across the parade ground too.
“March around his area. Where are you from? Act like soldiers,” and he proceeded to make a right prick of himself.
Fuck him – we were off to the boozer and off we marched.
We entered the boozer – a run-down establishment with plaques and
memorabilia strewn around the place. As usual, there was a pool table and space invader machine. The beers were cold – about as cold as the reception we got from the locals.
Time slipped by, as did numerous beers/bourbons. A scuffle broke out between some Tankie and a 6 RAR guy – and no sooner had that finished the BOS, DNCO and half the guard rocked up wanting blood and needing an excuse to throw someone in the cells. We were all read the riot act!
Youngie (Kiwi) from Heavy Weapons 8/9 RAR had had a skinful and made a verbal and loud statement that he disliked Tankies. He was asked what he was going to do. Fuck ’em – this would teach the pricks and off he went into the night. Oh well, we let him go – he’d be sure to turn up AWOL the following day or in the cells for sure. The usual banter carried on around our table for the next few hours – beers and bourbons going down range like there was no tomorrow.
The BOS and DNC came down and told everyone to fuck off in no uncertain terms as the boozer was closing.
“No roadies allowed. Bar is closed – fuck off.” Fucken wankers! The night had turned a little brisk even after a few hours of solid drinking. This would make for an enjoyable walk back to the lines.
On our way back we saw Youngie walking back towards us. He was carrying a small Sidchrome socket set.
“Hey, mate, what you up to?” we asked.
“Pricks,” he mumbled, “fucken Tankies… this will teach em…
Now this is going to be good!”
We got back to Camp X-ray and bedded down for the night.
Fast forward seven hours. It was morning routine and everyone was up – hung over. From the next building we heard a hell of a commotion. Where was Youngie? We raced in and saw a boom gate straddled across two partitions up high. Two NCOs were doing their nut at Youngie who was sitting on his cot, grinning like a madman. We were all pissing ourselves – this was fucken gold.
Outside we heard a voice calling, “Lines inspection – get to your room.” Someone was right pissed but we had no idea why! How do you hide a 4m long plank, brightly painted with stripes? Some genius said, “Shove it down the barrel of the 105, put the venturie and muzzle covers on and no one will know!”
With lines inspection over, we were on parade.
‘Oh fuck, here it comes!’ The OC and CSM 6 RAR along with the
BOS, DNCO 1 Armd were out the front.
“Okay, gents here’s the deal. Whoever has the boom gate, if you
return it this morning, you will not be charged. However, if we find it at a later time, you will be dealt with by the RSM 1 Armd Regt.”
You could hear a pin drop – amongst the snickers of soldiers through the ranks.
Fast forward one hour – Youngie, his boom gate, 1 x helper and a Sidchrome socket set headed off in the direction of 1 Armd Regt. Standing in the middle of the road was the same Tankie from the previous afternoon. Out came the BOS, DNCO and guard as did the RSM from bullshit castle. Not a word was spoken – ah the humiliation!
The boom gate was re-attached – job done.
Backtrack 10 hours. Youngie and his Sidchrome socket set got a vantage point no more than 10m from the guard, lying in the shadows. Every time there was a change of guard, the off-coming guard would go into the guard room, wake the oncoming one and do the handover – this gave Youngie about 10 minutes to undo as many nuts and bolts as possible – a mean feat considering the amount of paint that had been accumulated over the hardware over the years. (Youngie later stated it was either four or five changes of the guard before he had all the bolts out.)
On the last change of guard he took the gate and hid back in his position. The oncoming guard took his post and did not notice a thing, with no boom gate present. At the next change of guard Youngie did the Harry Holt back to X-ray with the bootie!