Colin F. Jones

THE RATS OF CONCORD

It was boring up at Concord
‘Cause it was an isolated joint
Beyond the Long Bien complex
On the east flanks furthest point

It overlooked the Song Dong Ngai
Indeed a pleasant view
From on the hill where Concord lay
In the monsoons heavy dew

They called it “Rocket Alley”
What a very inapt name,
‘Cause we didn’t see a Charlie
Oh Concord was so tame.

As the tedious days passed slowly
To find more things to do was vain,
Until one day the rats appeared,
to overrun the whole terrain.

‘Twas no Pied Piper available
So another way was tried
A bloke named Floyd set a trap
And got a rat inside.

He was big and rough and ugly
(The rat, of course, I mean)
With ears as sharp as razors
A body long and lean

“Look at ‘im,” cried Floyd in glee
“A beaut for sure is he,
He moves like lightning in his cage,
‘Cause he’s built for speed you see.”

Then Tilly standing by the way
Had a bright idea,
“I’ll bet I can catch a rat,
That could show that thing its rear.”

“You’re on,” said Floyd, “It’s a bet
There ain’t a rat could outrun Ho,
Look at the way he fights the wire,
Boy, he could fairly go.”

Tilly set the cage that evening
The bait, an apple core,
Any rat that fed on apples
Would have a tigers roar.

All night he watched and waited,
Until he heard a scurry there,
When he heard the cage door crash,
He had a rat within his snare.

“How can we lose,” said Tilly,
“Phar Rat, will be his name,
He’ll even go down in history,
Might reach the hall of fame.”

My, he was sleek and sturdy,
With nimble and agile limb,
A purebred I shouldn’t wonder
Judging by the silver-grey of him.

His tail was long and thrusting,
His beady eyes were black.
It was obvious he was a racer,
By the clean curve of his back.

Old Tilly’s mind got working,
“How we going to win this race?
First we’ve got to build a track,
In the coolest, flattest place.”

So he collected some old canisters,
The type the rounds come in,
And cut them down the middle,
Phar Rat in these would win.

He joined them all together
With a transparent plastic top,
So that backers could see the action,
When the barriers got the chop.

That day the punters gathered,
To see Ho and Phar Rat race,
The betting started early,
At a pretty rapid pace.

The cage doors slipped their catches,
Sprang free to clear the way;
Seconds lapsed before the start,
Of a new historic day.

Then Phar Rat from his barrier,
A frightful streak of grey,
Leapt forth, a flying image,
To blur the light of day.

In seconds it was over,
Phar Rat had reached the end,
Twisted to a sliding halt,
He’d flashed round every bend.

Old Ho he did not bother,
To even leave his cage,
Causing all his backers,
To fly into a rage.

“The chink’s a flaming letdown
He couldn’t run a yard,
Keep the ruddy stewards away,
Or else he will be barred.”

But Phar Rat was soon to vanish,
From the vital winning place;
Ho went on to prove his fame,
For he won many a rewarding race.

Although went down in history,
And Phar Rats fame had died,
The Chink was not the champion,
Of the first race of the pride.

But the same fate was to claim them both,
For they were fired from Bluey’s gun,
Phar Rat, he landed far ahead,
Like the first race he had won

Author’s Note: I wrote many poems while serving in South Vietnam, two being published in the limited book ‘Mission In Vietnam’ it being a history of the operations conducted by 4RAR and us (104 Fld Bty RAA) through 68-69. This is one of those poems, and is true in every detail.

Fire Support Patrol Base Concord was a hotspot known as ‘rocket alley’ and we took it over from an American unit and rebuilt it: part of the ‘blocking’ forces defending the approaches to Long Bien. Such was the effectiveness of the 4RAR patrols that concord did not receive a single rocket attack while in occupation, although many missions were fired.

Australian M2A2 in action in Vietnam 1968
Australian M2A2 in action in Vietnam 1968 (Photograph Copyright 1968 by Colin F. Jones)