Colin F. Jones

THE GUNNERS OF 104

We can offer no more than our will, to do our very best
And 104 in that foul war, passed every crucial test
We could not go together, so we went at different times,
To face the foe with a comradeship, that such loyalty defines,
Australian Artillery gunners bound by a common cause,
To fight for truth with courage, to open freedom’s doors.
As gunners we stood together, facing death in tragic war
As we still stand together, bonded by the number, 104.
We went at different times; but the enemy was the same,
As was our noble units pride and glorious treasured name.
You know, we never do forget, for the white lanyard links us all,
An umbilical cord that can’t be cut, lest we as brothers fall.
And now as veterans we grow old and the cordite smoke has died,
We hope our sons and daughters live, with the same Australian pride.

From different walks of life we came, as servants of the gun’
A loud and boisterous battle piece that many a battle has won.
We came together as strangers, conscripts and professional men,
To form 104 Field Battery, and to form it once again,
On the battle fields of Vietnam, for the battery went there twice,
And had there been a need to go, we would have done it thrice.
Each gunner has his memories; we all fought a private war,
But shared a unique brotherhood – for we were the gunners of 104.
Some of us have passed away; for time the lanyard frays,
But we still left will honour them, all of our lifelong days.
And while we salute as Veterans – the colours rolling by,
Let us salute our wives and families, for they have seen a grown man cry.
So gunners of the regiment, let us toast the batteries soul,
And with the lanyard pure and white raise our banner on the pole.

Let it flutter as our ensign for we are everywhere,
That we can see it clearly and its true meaning share.
For when we stand together as gunners every one,
Our spirits all united lanyards tied to every gun,
We shall always feel elation as we did with every round,
That we fired not in anger but for reasons more profound.
We shall be drawn to those fond memories when we were young and free,
When we accepted that our duty was something more than you and me.
That we represented our nation the regiment and our God,
And the honour of those gunners now sleeping in the sod.
We were not just an Artillery battery, we were the men of 104,
For no finer group of gunners ever went to the Vietnam war
For there on both occasions we served our country well,
And the names of those who went before, were etched in every shell.

Written by request for the 104 Fld Bty RAA 2007 Reunion

Post Script: I read my poem at the reunion dinner on the 26th April and managed to get through it without going completely to pieces (only just) and received a standing ovation, so I am pleased about that.

Col: April 29, 2007

104 Fld Bty, RAA: Vietnam 1969
104 Fld Bty, RAA: Vietnam 1969. From photograph ©Copyright 1969 by Colin F. Jones

Author’s Note: This photograph is of a few blokes of the gun crew with which I was serving in South Vietnam. Typically when firing a lot of rounds we were surrounded by clouds of cordite smoke. In this picture the round had jammed in the breach and required ramming home. This often happened with US cases, which were made from spiral steel wrapping, whereas the Oz cases were solid brass.

‘Ear Muffs’ were a late issue. For a long time we did not have them and we got pretty good at tucking one ear into the shoulder; sticking a finger in the other, while keeping a hand free for other usage. Cordite smoke is choking; it gets into your throat and lungs, but like all thing we soon got used to that. When the gun fires, there is a concussion of air that surges around you and a high pitched ‘crack’ that can and often did blow your ear drums.

In this picture it is dry and still has some grass not yet worn away. There are no defences to speak of, just a small M60 post to the right front of the gun. The ground would soon become a dust bowl. We are relatively clean indicating that we have not been there for long. Field Artillery in Vietnam were very vulnerable on the first day of occupation, as it takes quite a bit of time and very hard yakka (work) to establish a base, which gets stronger and more secure the longer we are there.

Depending on the Operation, we could be there for only two days, or even two months – generally somewhere in between. Where the Infantry Battalion went, we went with them.