Mike Subritzky

FLASHES

I remember it like yesterday
Me, a basic recruit in the Kiwi Army
and the 1300hrs parade at RF Depot.
I was the only Artillery recruit on the entire course;
Vietnam had just ended and they had Gunners to burn.

I had only been accepted as an Artillery recruit as I had
previously served as a Gunner on a Navy Bofors Gun,
aboard the old minesweeper “Kiama.”

The Sergeants called me out of the ranks,
Sergeant Hughes and Sergeant Taitua;
both men were Vietnam Vets and had served
with the famous Artillery Unit, 161 Battery.
They told me that I was in a world of shit and that
Sergeant Major Newth wanted a piece of my arse.

More than a little fearful,
I mulled over my recent sins in the afternoon sunlight.
Then the door to the Depot office opened and out marched
Sergeant Major Roger Newth (another Artilleryman).
He came to a halt in front the recruits of
Basic Number: 92 (and me), and in his booming parade ground voice
yelled: “Parade stand at Ease!”

Sar’ Major Newth looked towards the two Sergeants
then reached into his right hand pocket and withdrew
a piece of paper… an Army signal page.

He then looked at me and informed me that,
the School of Artillery had been in touch with the
Naval Gunnery School at HMNZS Tamaki, and they
have confirmed that “yes,” I was a qualified (Navy) Gunnery Rate.

Now, with my previous service having been confirmed
the Sar’ Major had spoken with Major M.J. Hall MC and
Sergeants Taitua and Hughes, and they had decided to
award me my Artillery “flashes and diamond.”
He again reached into his pocket and withdrew
two navy blue shoulder flashes, and a “red over blue” diamond.
Embroidered onto the flashes were the words
ROYAL NEW ZEALAND ARTILLERY –
the diamond was a “red over blue” distinction worn
behind the cannon badge on a trained Gunners beret.

That night, after I had sewed the shoulder flashes
onto my battle dress jacket and the diamond onto my beret,
I checked myself out in the mirror.
Forget your university degrees, masters and doctorates,
one glance in that mirror wearing battledress
and I knew I was a “made man,”
… A Gunner.

Submitted for the May 2008 IWVPA Club Theme Project, “Inheritance