“SHITHOUSE AIM” By Garry Sloane, 4 RAR/NZ
Talking of urban myths reminds me of one that’s been around since the Australian troops vacated Nui Dat in late 1971. This incident is claimed to have happened up on the top of SAS hill. A very young junior NCO of Delta Company 4 RAR/NZ decided that he would remove one of the latrines before they departed, by using his section’s M79 grenade launcher commonly called a “Wombat Gun”. The NCO took a steady aim on the installation and pulled the trigger. This single-shot, shoulder- fired, break-action grenade launcher fired a 40-mm grenade and travelled at a muzzle velocity of 75 metres per second. It contained enough explosive to produce over 300 fragments that travel at 1524 metres per second within a lethal radius five meters. This round incorporated a spin- activation safety feature which prevented the grenade from arming while still within range of the shooter; it armed itself after travelling a distance of about 30 metres.
As the projectile impacted the latrine, an extremely loud explosion was heard. The result was the demolition of one very well used latrine, later deemed un-serviceable. The noise created by this assault on the latrine caused the whole of his unit and half of the TASK Force to “Stand To” as it was misunderstood and interpreted as an attack by the enemy upon their position.
Even though he was highly commended for his handling and accuracy in the use of the weapon, he was however charged with the unlawful discharge of a weapon, resulting in the destruction of military property. He was reduced to the rank of Private (this would not be the last time). It is also rumoured he was told he would never be granted another promotion in the Australian Army. I am led to believe he remained in the Army and retired 18 years later as a very much admired and respected sergeant.