Thursday, 18 August 2016

In Honour of the Battle of Long Tan

I hope you enjoy this.... written in honour of the Battle of Long Tan by an amazing poet who I am proud and blessed to call a friend and one of our very own recipients.  

Too good not to share in a post so that all of you can read it. 
Long Tan Action by Bruce Fletcher (AWM ART40758).png

August Rains (Long Tan)
Like any other day in ‘Nam, the morning smelled of mud,
Plantations rubber, choofa smoke and the distant arty thud.

And soon enough the choppers brought that all-familiar noise.
That whop-whop song that brought a smile to the face of all the boys.

With dixies bashed and rifles clean, we awaited orders new.
Alpha and the Bravo boys had been out before we knew.

Delta would patrol as one, so an ordinary day.
Except that we would miss lil’ Patti, and there’s nothing we could say.

As we set off through the jungle, we were met with bloody rain.
Bravo handed the baton to us, to return from whence they came.

The rain was just annoying, sometimes light, then it would pour.
The webbing, so much heavier now, ‘the hell are we doing this for?'

The SLR was sullen, and the pixie shirt was soaked.
The soldier’s faces looked just like their leave had been revoked.

But thoughts of rain and 'concert night' soon vanished in the air.
A machine gun burst, a ‘contact front!’ They knew that we were there.

We hit the ground, returned the fire and moved the guns up front.
'About a platoon', the scouts called back, enough for a company hunt.

But the mortars and the machine gun fire that landed all around,
Soon told us that there was more than that, they'd all but pinned us down.

Smithy took us by the scruff and moved us further up,
But Four-Two was in trouble and he had to crack this nut.

The Kiwis called in arty and the jungle came alive.
The constant crack of gunfire made us doubt we would survive.

They brought the napalm pretty close, I can’t forget that smell.
The boys in Four-Two held their own, but everywhere was hell.

The Hueys brought in ammo wrapped in blankets for the hurt.
We loaded up our magazines with extra blood and dirt.

We fought through monsoon downpours and we fought through VC waves.
We fought against our demons thinking this - the end of days.

I watched in pure amazement at the actions of the men,
Against all odds, against great foe, they were gallant ’til the end.

Time and time, we heard that horn, the bugle that they blew.
They were in the fog of war and suffering casualties too.

Jack Kirby ran amongst the fire, a tower of a man.
He saved the wounded, found the dead, and stopped the VC’s plan.

But in the dark, a noise did grow, like a rumble under ground.
The APCs were coming, and it was hope that rode that sound.

The VC took their leave real quick, and retreated though the sticks.
Today was not the day that they would conquer Delta Six.

But when the apprehensive dawn shone through the rubber trees.
We found a couple of hundred dead, we knew there were more of these.

Eighteen Aussies fell that night, and twenty two bled true.
Yet again, we’d proved ourselves: ANZAC’s, through and through.

We joked about the Kiwi guns, how they landed pretty near.
But the ANZAC guns from Nui Dat, were saviours, that was clear.

Padres spoke and hymns were sung, not a dry eye to be found.
The Hueys in the distance gave our memories a sound.

Durries and a beer or two, to cheer their souls along.
The fight was so not over, but the fight was also wrong.

Like any August day in ‘Nam, the morning smelled of rain.
For all returning from Long Tan, we’d never be the same.

Barham J. R. Ferguson
17 August 2016