HAIRCUT By Jerry Dykyj, 3 RAR, 4 RAR, 2/4 RAR
In early February 1970, I received confirmation that I had been accepted by the Australian Army and that I was to report to the York St Army Recruitment Centre in Sydney, on 7th March 1970. Seeing that I was going into the Army, my mate, Peter Stunt, told me that a friend of his, who was called up into the Army, had his hair shaved off and almost bald when he got to Kapooka. He suggested that to avoid the same situation, I should get a military haircut just a day prior to my enlistment into the Army. As I had reasonably long hair at the time, I thought that it was a good idea, so I might as well enjoy it while I still could, as in those days just about every bloke had long hair with the belief that was the only way to get a girl.
A day before my entrance into the Army I went to the local barber and asked him for a military haircut. He asked me if I wanted a square or rounded at the back, and I said square so long as it was military. He cut my hair short and told me that was the first military haircut he’d done, and that it should be acceptable in the Army.
I arrived at the recruitment centre on the day at 8 am, took the oath with three other blokes, and the major who presided over the oath came to us and told us that we should all get a haircut as they’d butcher our hair at Kapooka. Needless to say, I told him that I already had one, but he told me that the square haircut was unaccepted in the Army. We needed to go to the barber across from the recruitment centre and that he would do it the correct way. I thought that the major was a good bloke and nothing like the Army officers and NCO you see in the movies, so the Army couldn’t be that bad.
I had my second haircut, and then around 2 pm a bus collected us and took us to HMAS Watson Bay where we were to stay the night and leave in the morning with other recruits from Queensland and other areas of NSW.
In the morning, there were around 10 of us going to Kapooka. The sergeant (Gillespie), who was in charge at that depot, lined us up and told us that the naval barber had arrived and that everyone would have a haircut before leaving HMAS Watson Bay. There would be no exceptions and no complaints, as it was only 50c. By then I was very despondent and wondered if joining the Army was the right thing and that I was also quite bald.
We left HMAS Watson Bay after lunch and went back to York Street where we picked up further recruits. The trip to Kapooka took over eight hours, with a stopover in Goulburn for an hour. I was a bit worried because the sergeant in charge of us told a few fellows to consider getting a haircut as the Army barbers in Kapooka were known for their notoriety. I was relieved when he said that my haircut should be acceptable.
We arrived at Kapooka sometime around midnight and almost straightaway were herded into a large room with about 20 desks. Each one of us recruits was taken by a soldier to a desk to get our particulars. They gave us a number (regimental number) which we had to memorise before we went. When we were finished, we went outside, expecting to go someplace to sleep, but no, there was this sergeant (Hemmens) with three other corporals who lined us up into two ranks. Then the sergeant gave his welcoming speech and proceeded to say, “Anyone I tap on the shoulder will get a haircut.” You can imagine my surprise when he came from behind and tapped me on the shoulder. I straightaway realised that he must have made a mistake and stepped forward and said, “Excuse me, sergeant, but you made a mistake. You accidentally tapped me on the shoulder.” Without turning around, the sergeant said to one of the corporals, “Did I hear someone say that I made a mistake?” The corporal replied that he believed so. The sergeant turned around, came towards me and was probably one inch away from my face when he said to me,
“And what sort of mistake?” I told him that I’d already had three haircuts and seeing that it was dark, he must have mistaken me with longer hair.
He stepped back about two metres and said, “Why, I apologise.” I felt good that I’d corrected the sergeant. Turning around to the corporal, he asked him what he’d said to us. The corporal repeated that anyone he tapped on the shoulder would have a haircut. He replied that he thought he’d said that. Turning around and about one inch from my face, he roared, “You long-haired people I tapped on the shoulder will get a haircut, and you (me) will be the first one in line.” He then added, “Report to me after breakfast and I will personally escort you to the barber. Now, did you understand that?”
It was around 2.30 am before we bunked down at Silver City and after being picked up by an Army bus at 6.30 am, we went to A Wing mess hall and had breakfast. After breakfast we were led out by another corporal where we were issued with our gear. We were marched to the barber (I noticed everyone everywhere was marching), where I expected to see the sergeant. I asked the corporal where the sergeant was and he replied that he was probably still in bed as he’d had a late night. But he’d informed him to make sure that I got a haircut! So I went forward to the barber, who didn’t even blink when he saw me and practically scalped me. So that was my fourth haircut. I did not feel too bad as I looked just like everybody else, except a little poorer.
My advice to anyone joining the Army is not to have a haircut but wait till you get to rookie camp!
When you have sufficient supplies & ammo, the enemy takes two
weeks to attack. When you are low on supplies & ammo, the enemy decides to attack that night.