Mike Subritzky

MERSING – THE BEACH PARTY

The Brit’s choppered us to Mersing with guns underslung
using the ‘Wessex’… ugly, ungainly looking birds
but they got the job done. 1972 and ANZUK at its height we dig in,
gunpits “six/four hundred mills” and always three days digging. Then they inspired us
with the latest buzz from ‘Rumour Control’ was talk of a beach party, beer and a real barbeque…
No shit, Stratton had heard it from a Load-Master and Loadies know everything.

Then the Battalions started arriving and the other two Battery’s of the Regiment
the Brit Blazer Battery to our left and the Aussie Gunners of 106th Battery
tucked in behind… and as luck would have it the Battalion cooks
and bottle washers directly to our front. Surely a good omen.

The Battalion cooks flashed up the burners just after stand-down
and the smell of grease and barbeque wafted across the Gun Line.
No one hand eaten in two days and our gash rations had run out
nearly a week ago… Just to taste green vegetables, fried meat and real bread.

We fired a couple of ‘dry’ Fire Missions and then stood down at 1130
when each of us was issued with two cans of Tiger.
The cooks began serving right on 1200 hours and 161 Battery
was last in line… the queue snaked just about half the length of Mersing beach
and somehow or another Downs, Stratton and myself seemed to always be
at the very end of the queue… in fact for most of the afternoon.

The smell of so much grease, oil and fat drifting on the wind
and the emptiness of a 22 year old stomach that hasn’t eaten in three days
was hell. Finally I reached the servery, run by a Corporal Cook
with a beer belly and a bad attitude…
I push forward my mess tins, both of them, upper and lower…
an invisible hand places an unbuttered slice of bread in the larger mess tin…
another invisible hand forks a half a gook sausage into the same tin…
I look at the mess tin, the slice of bread and the half a gook sausage…
I look up at the fat gutted Corporal and make eye contact…
I look down at my mess tin, the slice of bread and the half a gook sausage…
then back at the fat gutted Corporal…
who rolls his short sleeves up a little tighter so as to high-light the two chevrons,
and then leaning across the servery and thrusting a serving fork in my face he yells…
“It’s just like having a jab Gunner…! NEXT!”

… Fuck I hate cooks.

Submitted for the January 2004 IWVPA Club Theme Project, “Emptiness