Mike Subritzky

ANZAC EXCHANGE
161 Battery at Enoggora

Photo Credits: The Subritzky Collection Photo Credits: The Subritzky Collection Photo Credits: The Subritzky Collection Sarge I think I’m buggered,
I’m bitten on me back,
a bloody snakes bin crawlin’ thru the grass.

So call the Medic quick,
to give me arm a prick,
and take away the pain until I pass.

Yer mate the Bombardier,
can have me ‘ish’ of beer,
I won’t be drinkin’ Fosters when I go.

I’ve wrote me mum a note,
and I’ve put it in me pack,
she’s livin’ down near Kunga-munga-mo.

So tell me Aussie mates,
you’ze Kiwi bloody skates,
have caused the death of one of Anzac’s finest.

And when I pass away,
don’t put me in the clay,
the bloody dingo’s here are rife as goats.

What’s that you bloody say,
the choppers on its way,
it won’t be here in time to save this Digger.

The Doc he said it’s what?
Now how did that get there?
A tear tab from a beer can caused this wound?

Well, the pain will pass away,
and I’ll fight another day,
but PLEEZE you’ze Kiwis keep this to yourselves!

ANZAC EXCHANGE
(the story behind the poem)

Author’s Note: I have had so many Australian and New Zealand students contact me over this particular poem that I am including “The story behind the poem” so that teachers and students can understand that the word “ANZAC” is often used in joint military Operations and even Exercises, as in the case of this poem.

Principal: Mrs Sue Harvey-Latham
King Island District High School
Tasmania

Dear Mrs Harvey-Latham,

Warmest greetings from New Zealand. My name is Mike Subritzky and I am a Kiwi writer, author and poet, and am mostly known for my war poetry. I am also a hopeless correspondent with a pen and paper, hence my writing you this email.

I have just been contacted (via letter), by one of your students, James L-D who is carrying out a poetry research assignment and somehow tracked me down and wrote a series of questions for me to answer.

I would be in your debt Ma’am, if you could please pass on this email to James so as to assist him with his assignment. Thank you.

James is welcome to contact me via email at any time if he requires any other answers; my email address is: kusza@xtra.co.nz

Very good war poetry can also be found on the IWVPA website.

Could you please let me know that you have received this email as I would not want to disappoint this obviously talented young man? Thank you.

God Bless,
Mike

Kia ora James,

Greetings from New Zealand. I have just now received your email and am really honoured that you chose to study my poetry for your school assignment.

Now I have written a number of ANZAC themed poems, including the one called “ANZAC EXCHANGE.” By the way mate, all of my poems are real, based on real events.

The reason why the verse is a little confusing for you, is that the word “ANZAC” is often used between the Australian and New Zealand military whenever they are involved together, for example during the recent Vietnam War there was an “ANZAC Battalion” made up of soldiers from both Australia and New Zealand (3 Aussie Rifle Companies, and 1 Kiwi Rifle Company).
Now, “ANZAC EXCHANGE” is/was a series of military exercises and that particular exercise took part in Tin Can Bay in Queensland in Australia in about 1986.

EXERCISE ANZAC EXCHANGE 1986

I was a Gunnery Sergeant and a Gun Commander (105mm Field Artillery Howitzer). Three of my Gunners were exchanged with three Aussie Gunners… they came to my Gun and my Gunners went to their Gun. My Battery was called 161 Battery, and the Aussie Battery was the 104th Battery. Now the Aussie Gunner in question, his name was John and he spoke with a very distinct Aussie accent.

We had been firing the Guns late into the night on various targets… when we finally stood down for the night, he was the first guy into bed… please be aware Kiwi’s hate bloody snakes and so none of us had unrolled our sleeping bags by this time, where-as John the Aussie had set himself up much earlier at last light.

Next thing he was yelling and screaming for the Medic… a couple of other Kiwi’s saw a snake rapidly exit my tarp (a tarp/tarpaulin is a kind of large canvas tent which is raised just above the ground, and contains Artillery ammunition, stores, and our sleeping area… there are usually 8 men to a Gun detachment).

The Medic and I took a look at John, and sure enough there was a double-puncture wound in his back. The Medic shot him full of anti-venom, and then we had John “Casavaced” (airlifted by chopper) out of the exercise area and urgently to a hospital… we did not know what type of snake had bitten him.

Now, when he got to the hospital, he was going into shock and the Aussie Doctor came into the treatment room… took one look at the snake-bite, and ‘acted’ very, very angry… he yelled at John and told him that he had dragged him out of his bed at 2 O’clock in the morning and all that was wrong with him was that he had been “bitten by a bloody bull ant!”

This was a lie, but it caused John a great deal of embarrassment, and he bounced out of the shock. The Doctor said to him that because he was so angry he was going to inject him anyway just for pulling him (the Doctor) out of bed.

About 4 days later, John was choppered back to our Gun position… and he was very angry with us… “You’ze Bloody Kiwis made me look stupid in front of the Doc and all of the nursing staff.”

He then told us what the Doctor had said and done. I then got John to remove his shirt, and I took another look at his back… sure enough, there was a slightly septic double-puncture wound of a snake… John would not believe me, and so I got a sighting system called a “parrallelascope” which is a large mirror, and we held it in such a position so that John could see the actual wound… he reply then was in true Aussie style “Well Bugger Me!”

So James, that is the actual story of how the “thought” of the poem came into my head. I simply changed the snake, from instead of a Bull Ant, to a tear-tab off a can of Fosters Beer which were in use at the time, and actually came away from the can and had two slightly sharp prongs… the tear tabs they use now-a-days actually simply bend into the can.

Ask your Mum and Dad about the throw away tear tabs and they will know exactly what I am talking about.

OK. Now to your questions:

QUESTION 1: If you’re talking about ANZAC, then why does the reader get the impression that the poem is set in Australia rather than Gallipoli?

ANSWER: It is set in Queensland, at an Artillery Firing Range… the name of that particular military exercise was “ANZAC EXCHANGE” and involved Australian and New Zealand soldiers.

QUESTION 2: Do you consider yourself an Australian or a New Zealander with use of the word “bloody” which is an Australian “icon.”

ANSWER: I am a 6th generation Kiwi, although my family took part in the Victoria Gold rush of 1851, and also built the town of Maldon, which is halfway between Ballarat and Bendigo… my third grandfather (Great, Great) was a member of the first town council of Maldon. And by the way, I did not use the word “bloody” John the Aussie Gunner used it… I just loved his down-home Aussie accent.

QUESTION 3: May I ask how the “Kiwi bloody skates have caused the death of one of ANZAC’s finest?”

ANSWER: When John was going into shock he was talking about 90 miles an hour, and blamed the fact that he was on a Kiwi Gun, for his being bitten… no self respecting snake would have dared slither near an Aussie Cannon. By the way, the word “skate” is actually a flat fish, but is also a military slang (mainly Navy), for people who are “shady” or disreputable.

As the poem itself leads to, the entire matter was very embarrassing (and frightening) to John the Aussie, and when it was over provided a great deal of humour. First he did not want us to tell his mates that he had gone into shock over a bull ant, and then he did not want us to tell his mates that he had been bitten by a snake.

In closing James, I wish you all the very best with your school assignment. I have attached a couple of photographs taken at Enoggera (Brisbane) during that Military Exercise.

Once again mate, I am honoured that you chose my work, and have included into the body of this email several other poems that may be of assistance to you. If you need anything else, please feel free to email me. I am unsure of your age, so please check with your folks or your teachers that it is OK to do so. Cheers.

Warmest regards,
Mike Subritzky

Biography: Mike Subritzky is one of New Zealand’s best known war poets and his work appears in numerous books, CD’s, and anthologies. His poetry and verse is often read on National Radio on ANZAC Day (New Zealand’s National Day of Remembrance). He is the first New Zealand poet to have his war poetry read at Westminster Abbey, and the first Kiwi war poet to be read at ANZAC Corner, Hyde Park, London.

A retired professional soldier, from an old New Zealand military family, he is the recipient of the New Zealand Operational Service Medal, as are two of his sons.

“Subritzky is regarded as the ‘Kiwi Kipling’ and writes his war poetry in the gritty, in-your-face style of the barrack room and the forward trench” The Pangolan Times