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Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

-- John F. Kennedy

Vietnam I was GPO for the move to Nui Dat, and on arrival I was responsible for deploying the guns in a temporary position on the brigade's south-west perimeter, the first time the bty had been this exposed since Korea, according to our BC, Don Kenning, and we had to look after our own defence.

There was a period of alarm when a newly arrived gunner-alcoholic, suffering drying out and the DTs, suddenly decided to dive into the steep gully that ran along our flank. We could hear him yelling and having something of a fit. Terry Hughes was his gun sergeant, and volunteered to take a party down to retrieve him, and did so smartly. But the BC wasn't happy: ‘There could have been VC down there, you should have shot the bastard!' was his snarled advice. Yeah. But I never thought he meant it - a chance meeting with VC had to be preferable to the paperwork.

In a second more minor incident, the BC suggested this would be a good time to fire the guns against bamboo to see what effect shell-burst had on it, another first, and we were given permission to do so - 'testing local defences'. No plotting, just line of sight. We fired and observed several rounds. Some of the men had gathered to watch, standing on and around the sandbagged edge of the CP, a temporary hole in the ground. They began to mutter about hearing the buzz and whine of shrapnel coming back past us and several of the sergeants recommended I stop firing. (I heard none of the shrap, but that's another story.) Some of them moved to cover, wisely, as it turned out. ‘One more round', says I, and away it went. Bill Godfrey, standing next to me, was slashed across the top of his boot and earned a trip home from that last round. And the Aus bty CP phoned over to ask if we would stop peppering them with shrapnel - please?- as it was making holes in their Landrover canopy. (We were between them and the target, so they were beyond the skip distance.) The bamboo probably suffered less than Bill or the Aus CP.

We relocated to the permanent gun base across the road to the east, and I laid out the guns as an X, one gun at each of the five points, the middle gun officially being the ‘spare' for our four gun bty. When a sixth gun arrived, I thought, it could be placed left or right of the X to create a more conventional layout. No-one was really happy with the way I'd done this, the common complaint being that the guns would always have overhead fire. True, whichever way you look at it, when targets were anywhere around an arc that went the whole 360 degrees. Never figured out how it could be avoided with any layout.

Note: by Mike Dakin


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This Day in History
1864: Confederate General Sterling Price's raid on Missouri nearly turns into disaster when his army is pinned between two Union forces at Westport, near Kansas City. Although outnumbered two to one, Price managed to slip safely away after the Battle of Westport, which was the biggest battle west of the Mississippi River.