Mike Subritzky

LEAVING ARMOUR
NZATMC AP Lima: Rhodesian War 1979/1980

Lightening always re-awakens the fear,
that exact same vulnerability,
freeze-framing the memory of times best forgot.

Not the sheet lightening of my childhood
glimmering on the hillsides in rural-town New Zealand,
but this new ominous “ozone” forked lightening…
the down the throat, attracted to tall buildings and bodies stuff,
and the fear of being caught in the open during a violent storm.
The odds are about the same… in the end God decides.

The crocodiles always gave you a sense of survival,
with their high sides and armour plate…
so long as you sat on your pack,
and weren’t dumb enough to sit over a wheel.
You watched the red dirt road ahead for that tell-tale black polythene
which the guerrillas always wrapped their mines in,
(placed on top of a one gallon can of petrol for a good fire-flame).

When the croc slowed on a corner
you checked through the firing slit for ambush sights and firing positions…
the guerrillas had made corner ambushes an art form.
Two mags taped together; empty the first clip into the vehicle
with the safety set on “Rock and Roll”…
then change mags, and run like hell for the border.
AK up onto the right shoulder facing rearwards
and while running give the occasional burst with the barrel horizontal.
The Rhodesians took casualties this way, not a lot,
but enough to let you know that good men die in the follow-up.

The worst moment was always leaving the croc,
leaving the security of sloped armour,
and the illusion of safety.
It was like moving cautiously forward
during the epicentre of a violent thunderstorm…
there was always that moment of hesitation,
the quickly whispered “God Protect Me,”
and then stepping out…
The rest was simply training.

Mike Subritzky: Leaving Armour
Photo credit: Sergeant Johnny Nagle 161 Battery, RNZA