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Tales From the Tiger

 

Australian Infantry Man's Combat Badge
Night of the Living Dead

© Roger Lambert
Platoon Commander
9 Platoon, C Company,
2nd Tour

Author: Roger Lambert


In February 1970, as our tour of duty was coming to an end, it was our turn to host the Advance Party of 7 RAR who was to take over from us in country. Officers, SNCOs and NCOs of the Advance Party were ‘married up’ with their counterparts across 5RAR and the business of imparting local knowledge began earnest.

To set the scene, 9 Platoon’s tent lines were on the perimeter of the Company area with only the sentry machine gun pits, wire and Claymores between us and the enemy. The lines were in two rows of tents parallel to the perimeter.

Now, one of the few pleasures we had in camp was the odd movie that would be shown (the ‘theatre’ was conveniently located next to the C Company area). There was some rudimentary wooden bench style seating but for the most part, ‘movie goers’ took along their “chairs, canvas, folding, troops for the use of” to watch the movie.

On this particular night, for some inexplicable reason, the movie being shown was that old B Grade B&W horror movie “The Night of the Living Dead”. As the title suggests, it was about what we now colloquially refer to as zombies and included cannibalism. It was pretty full on for its time. For details, see here:
Night of the Living Dead Poster
Now, after a 12 month tour of duty, it would take a lot to upset the seasoned veterans of C Company. Not so our 7RAR counterparts who were fresh in country.

At the conclusion of the movie, everyone folded up their canvas chairs and retired to their respective tent lines.

Now after what seemed to be a fairly short time after lights out (which, if I recall correctly, was at 2230 hours (10.30pm)), I was woken by a blood curdling scream from the far end of 9 Platoon lines. It was one of those screams in the night that could make the hair on the back of your neck stand upright and that took some doing at this late stage of our tour.

After disentangling myself from my mosquito net, I was out of the cot and out of the tent with my trusty 9mm Browning pistol in hand wondering what on earth had happened. Had a VC got through the wire and past the gun picquet and infiltrated the lines? Was someone being attacked by one of the myriad of poisonous creatures we’d learnt to live with over the preceding 12 months? What on earth was going on?

I was greeted by a voice from the end of the tent lines reassuring me all was well.
“It’s OK, skipper. One of the new blokes was having a nightmare. Scared the crap out of himself and us momentarily but all’s well – now.”

“Roger that” says I. And to the few diggers who had been roused from sleep (by now most would sleep through an artillery barrage), I simply said “OK, stand down you blokes and hit the cot.”

It was only then that I realised that I’d leapt out of the ‘farter’ (cot) in my usual sleeping attire, grabbed my 9mm pistol and holster, slipped my feet into flip-flops (thongs) and proceeded out of the tent and down the lines. It must have been a sight to behold – a naked subaltern, with nothing but thongs on his feet, a pistol belt and holster around his hips and brandishing a 9mm Browning …that’d be enough the put the fear of God into any enemy!

“Mental note for future reference” I chuckle inwardly. “Don’t show horror movies to newbies in a war zone.”

“Welcome to country, 7RAR” I thought as I climbed back under my mosquito net and once more drifted off …our own “wakey” was not far away. And no zombie was going to change that.

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