When 'Wingy' Read thew Riot Act ... A Reprise
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australian infantryman's combat badge

© Ron Hamlyn
OC Admin Coy
and B Coy
1st Tour
author: ron hamlyn

In January 1962, I returned from the Pacific Islands Regiment to a posting as Regimental Signals Officer of 1RAR, newly returned from Malaysia. The Battalion reformed into the new organization of 1RAR Battle Group (1RAR BG) We were short of ANPRC 9 and 10 set batteries. Thus on an almost daily basis I began to visit the Battle Group Assistant Quartermaster General (AQMG), one Major J. A. Warr, known as 'Wingy' resulting from a wound he received in Korea. My pleas for batteries were often met with the words of this officer which I shall never forget "Do you want them today, or will tomorrow do?" Miraculously, day after day he managed to scrounge just enough batteries to keep us on the air.

After three years of constant begging and scrounging the AQMG and I were on pretty good terms when in February 1965 I received a posting to the Infantry Centre, then at Ingleburn. The BG XO, Lt. Col I. R. Brumfield and Wingy urged me not to go but I argued that it was a must if I ever wanted to be promoted. So I went.

Three weeks after taking up my new posting I received a call from the XO. He said, inter alia, "I told you not to go; if you had stayed over here you could have had a company". On the 1st March 1965 the BG split into 1RAR and 5RAR and I watched 1RAR saddle up and head for South Vietnam. Missed the boat again! Time passed. 5RAR trained. I lectured at the Infantry Centre. 1RAR came home to cheers and 5RAR left for South Vietnam under command of Lt. Col J. A. Warr
I'd made a bad decision!

In June 1966 I received another call at the Infantry Centre direct from Director of Infantry (DINF). I was asked "Are you FE (Field Force Everywhere)?" No, I replied and the voice said how long would it take you to be FE? I said three months. The voice said we need a Coy Commander for 5RAR in a hurry. I corrected my reply to three days. Ten days later after a mandatory trip to Jungle Training Centre (JTC) to meet the political requirement I was on a plane to South Vietnam, the only infantryman on board. The rest of the plane was full of 161 Recce Flight.

I landed at Tan Son Nhut and was left stranded on the strip as the Recce Flight disappeared in a bus. By devious means I found my way to Nui Dat via Vung Tau and that trip is another story in itself.

And there he was, 'Wingy' Warr with his arch conspirator Maj S. J. (Stan the Man) Maizey. With the friendliest but quickest briefing imaginable I became OC Administration Company (Admin Coy).

The story leaps forward to 21 February 1967; a tragic day! Wingy radioed "get yourself up to B Company and start sorting things out. The Company has suffered casualties including Bruce (Maj M. B. McQualter) and I want you to take over the Company as soon as it comes in". Again I went.

There is no need to elaborate. Every Tiger knows the story. The problem was to hold the Company together, reorganize it, hold its morale and get it ready for further operations. Wingy Warr was wonderful. I went to him for advice in writing to next of Kin (NOK) and relatives. He said, "Leave it to me, that's my job.", and he wrote to them all personally. He gave me more support than I had a right to expect, and he tried to give B Company the same. We took three more casualties but we muddled through with his help.

And then came 7RAR! Lou O'Dea brought home the last patrol, marching his platoon past Battalion Headquarters (BHQ) with a flare in his hand to the roars of the rest of BHQ and Support Company and best of all with no casualties; and 5 RAR was off operations.

Things got a bit hectic. Practical jokes were all the go. Blokes strove to come up with original ideas. It became important to show these 7RAR new guys that you can't keep a good tiger down. CO 7RAR was presented with a pig (which he didn't seem to enjoy too much) and a sort of matey but patronizing air seemed to permeate the battalion. Nevertheless, the celebrations seemed to be under control, when BANG! Someone had dropped a purple smoke flare down the ventilation shaft of B Company's Command Post. The CP was rendered useless. Every wall map had adopted the colour of the flare, everything but everything was coloured purple.

The custard hit the fan. OC B Company 7RAR was in my face complaining. CO 7RAR was having words with Wingy. Tension in the Messes' was high. B Company was in the proverbial S**T and a sacrificial lamb was required. Lt Col J A Warr wanted to see me. Ah! Ah! this was not good news. As I had become accustomed to, I went, I guessed it might not be for tea and scones. However in all our encounters I had never known John Warr to raise his voice, much less lose his temper, therefore no real need to worry. How wrong can you be?

No, he didn't lose his temper, nor did he raise his voice but without so much as expletive he gave me a dressing down worth publishing for posterity which included among other things a court-martial of forty B Company men including myself. Finally, with a degree of menace he CO of 5RAR Lt. Col John Warrsettled for Reading the Riot Act and ordered me to place the miscreant under close arrest (he didn't say how or for how long). I attempted to explain that there was no facility for close arrest and that I had intended as a punishment to order the so-called miscreant to refurbish the CP by himself. The latter idea was the only concrete contribution that I managed to insert into the interview.

And that is how a B Company veteran, who shall remain nameless but whom I am sure will recognize himself, came to be locked behind a barbed wire enclosure and chained to a tree until the day we boarded HMAS Sydney and sailed for home. I may be wrong but I can't recall that the charge against the miscreant was ever heard.

Every night for the next few years I used to thank the Lord for giving 5RAR John Arnold Warr as Commanding Officer, the most compassionate and caring man I ever met.

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