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These memoirs tell the story of my life from early days, through my call-up for national service, and on to a climactic moment in time, for me at least, when I returned from my first tour of duty in Vietnam in mid-1967. An epilogue and a post-script give a brief rundown of events from then to the present day.

Younger readers and others of a different genre to mine will I hope be given sufficient background to events occurring along the way to allow a glimmer of understanding of my attitudes, and so forgive my foibles, pardon my prejudices, and enjoy with me the telling of my tale.

My urge to write has been reinforced at many family gatherings where, despite my showering them with gifts on a regular basis, I observe the indifference with which I am handled by my numerous small grand nieces and nephews. It strikes me that the poor little things will never know what a lively past their old great-uncle had unless I leave a record.

The family history too was slipping away. I was afraid that all the tales I had been told by my father of his early days in Botany, Rockdale and Arncliffe in Sydney, and by my mother of emigration from Ireland and life following that in Australia, would die with me if I did not act to preserve the remnants of the story.

But my deepest imperative in undertaking this task was to fulfil a long and fervently held desire to pay tribute to those men of the Australian Army who accompanied me, commanded me, and were commanded by me, in many dangerous enterprises in Malaya, Papua New Guinea, and Vietnam. These, my band of brothers, I will never forget:

 

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition...
King Henry V (iv. iii.)

 

We were a bit vile in those days, and to truly reflect our condition, whilst telling my story I have used coarse language on a small number of occasions, but nothing you would not hear on the television these days. Vileness seems to be spreading.


Scouting the PNG / West-Irian (nowadays Papua) border at the time of the
Indonesian takeover from the Dutch.

To jog my memory during the writing, I relied on letters, hoarded documents, snapshots, and an extensive library of home movies taken over the years, now converted to videotape.

As to my methodise, when describing events where conversation is quoted, I have in some cases taken the liberty of ascribing words to persons that may not be those exactly used at the time, but would reflect the tone of the discussion. Events that may have taken place at many similar occurrences I have compressed into the description of one or two.

In describing general background events, a person or persons may sometimes have been placed in a specific scene in order to indicate that they were with me in that place at about that time, and could probably and/or would normally have been present under such circumstances.

In passing I have been critical of some organisations, departments, services, people, and many aspects of Australia’s conduct of affairs and attitude to the World. I have always been something of a ‘stirrer’ and believe that all sides can be wiser for a robust discussion of any topic by those with some real knowledge of it.

I have written so as to avoid the need for the reader to constantly refer to a glossary, as the military is pathologically addicted to capital letters and acronyms. I hope that my efforts to write in clear language will ease the task of the lay reader and not perturb the pedants.

Finally I must explain that it has not been my intention to cause any person, including myself, any extremely serious hurt or very severe embarrassment. Where there is danger of such an occurrence, I have not mentioned names, or have used thinly veiled speech, and/or, if absolutely necessary, slightly altered the telling of the tale.

Brian W McFarlane

Bowral,
New South Wales,
Australia 2000