SHIFTY By Michael Dench, 5 RAR ’68-’70
Over the years I’ve had my share of company commanders. Some of them, like Major… (the Eskimo) are hardly worth a second thought and of course I’m sure that we’ve all experienced (and tried to forget) an Obie or two. But for every dud, there’s got to be an outstanding one or two. High on my list of ‘keepers’ is Peter W, my OC in A Coy 2 RAR and later my CO in 1 RAR – a champion bloke. But right up there is my OC A of Coy 5 RAR 68/70.
We’ll call him Reg, because that’s his name. He was an outstanding soldier, as perfect a boss as a digger could wish for, but so awfully naive. Reg was blessed with an excellent batman – a bloke who could be depended on and a sly little bugger to boot. Shifty kept Reg in brews in the bush and made sure that he never wanted for a good nosh. He firmly believed that a happy OC made for happy troops but… as stated, he was sly.
Imagine… we’ve stepped off with seven days’ rations and come the third day, Shifty’s pack is empty because they’ve been living out of his pack, so Reg’s pack hasn’t lost weight for the first three days. Reg would probably never have discovered Shifty’s ruse except for the time he left on R&R and a stand-in batman was found. He’s squatting there, getting the boss’s chop chop going and in conversation asks, “What kind of fruit do you want, boss?”
Reg replies, “Fruit? Are the Yanks putting fruit in C Rats now?” Shifty had been scoffing the fruit all that time and poor old naive Reg never twigged.
Shifty was sent straight away to Portsea and commissioned into RAAOC… Reg reckoned any digger as shifty as Shifty was wasted in a battalion.
Reg, bless him, is no longer with us so that means I’m now the oldest surviving member of that CS.