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Once we have a war there is only one thing to do. It must be won. For defeat brings worse things than any that can ever happen in war.

-- Ernest Miller Hemmingway
On That Fateful Day6899 Reads  Printer-friendly page

Vietnam First of all, let me say that Tony White was a first class doctor and man. When the 5th Battalion went to Vietnam on its first tour; the average Company Medic was ill trained and poorly equipped, especially by American standards. The training received at the School of Army Health was very basic, and involved more about how to work in a hospital ward than how to treat casualties.

Tony White, along with the Bandmaster (Staff Sgt. Benson), and Mick Seates gave their all, especially their arms, so that we could practice putting in drips [something that was unheard of at the School of Army Health]. And, in getting access to American supplies and equipment, which helped us cope with the day to day illnesses that were occurring.

They trained the Stretcher-Bearers to a substantial level, to the extent that we, who served as Company Medical Assistants, could rely on them for first class assistance in any emergency.

On that fateful day, I was travelling in CHQ's Carrier when the lead Carrier hit the minelbomb. The OC, Maj. MeQualter, ordered me out to see what the casualty situation was like. As I moved forward, the first thing I saw was a pair of legs and part of a spine off to my right. Next was Barney Gee, sitting up with a blackened face and very large white eyes (round). As I looked forward I could see the Carrier turned on its side, and expecting that there would be a few casualties, I called back to the rear for all the Stretcher-Bearers to come forward.

I then moved ahead to the Carrier. It had been blown over onto its side, and the ramp blown off. L/Cpl. Green lay pinned from the waist down, on the side of the Carrier, and it was evident that he was dead. Several members had been blown out the back and lay around. I was assessing the casualties on the run, and had begun to work on one of the boys, when all of a sudden there was another explosion.

Mick Poole, a Stretcher-Bearer, had run forward to assist when he trod on a Jumping Jack mine. By this time, the OC, the Platoon Commander, the Platoon Sergeant, Staff Sgt. Benson (acting CSM), Sigs., and Riflemen were also heading towards the Carrier. They were on the left of the tracks made by the carrier.

Mick was killed. He died trying to help his mates. When the noise abated there were bodies everywhere. No one was game to move. The moans and cries of the wounded are forever locked in my mind. I noticed that I had been slightly wounded by a bit of shrapnel, and thought, "Thank God, maybe a 'homer'," but that was not to be. I continued to treat the 'digger' I was originally working on. Jock Bouse, the Cpl. Stretcher-Bearer was also wounded, but in typical fashion for Jock, continued to treat the wounded without thought of himself.

Tony White arrived and immediately went to work - prioritising the wounded and treating the worst first. His actions on that day were inspirational to us all. I've no doubt that some lives were saved because of his actions.

When order was restored from chaos, the evacuation of the wounded began. Thank God for 'Dust-Offs'. I was evacuated with Tassie Wass's lot, and all he could say was, "Don't let them take my arms off, Doc". We landed at the chopper pad belonging to 36 Evac., but there were ambulances from 1 Aust Fld. Hosp. waiting also. I requested, no it was more of a demand, that Tass be taken to our Hospital, as in my mind the Americans were more of a 'cut and be damned' lot, whereas ours would try their damnedest to save his arms. It turned out right.

The memories of that day will always be there. There were other casualties prior to, and after then, but that day was not, and never will be forgotten.

Note: by Ron Nichols, Medic, B Coy. 5 RAR


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