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5RAR 'Tales from the Tiger'

 

Australian Infantryman's Combat Badge
A Really Good Porkey

© Michael 'Deaky' Baron von Berg MC
Platoon Commander Recce Platoon
1st Tour
 

Author: Michael 'Deaky' Baron von Berg


Wormald the PigComing back from Vung Tau on a lazy afternoon in a somewhat hazy alcohol induced state on a rare but enjoyable excursion there was an unexplainable determination that the platoon should have a mascot for the duration of time in country. In the lead vehicle, a Land Rover with some equally relaxed and inebriated members of the platoon, a farmer with a sow and some cute little piglets was noticed just outside the village of Hoa Long. The period was March 1967, some six weeks before we were to hand over to 7RAR and return to Australia. Many more intellectual colleagues may have read Margo Fallis and Cedric the Pig, or Freddy the Pig by Walter R Brooks, but at that time, due to the rather insular and limited reading interests the information on pigs in war comics or Playboy magazine, or on all things porcine were rather limited. What was known, pigs were highly intelligent, loyal and as an animal quiet clean which was somewhat of a surprise. An excellent choice for a platoon pet it was thought. Alighting from the vehicle to barter with the farmer which must have been intriguing trying to converse in inadequate and inebriated Vietnamese bar talk, but as in all societies, a handful of Vietnamese Piasters, (which was the bar excursion residue) with lots of gesturing and hand language seemed to resonate enough to purchase the piglet. How much was paid nobody can recall but it was a fistful of the local currency which must have excited him enough to do the deal. The additional purchase of a rice sack in which to contain the little creature relieved another handful of local currency.
 
Proceeding back inside the wire and down to the lines all and sundry played with the little fellow near the boxing ring behind our tents. Some may have forgotten or not known of this magnificent gladiatorial construction which saw some hilarious moments. It was never constructed for any altercations between members of the platoon or anyone else; purely a fitness regime which most enjoyed. But what to do with the piglet and most importantly if you are going to have a platoon mascot it must have a "name" mustn’t it?

It took the platoon an earth shattering and truly awe inspiring intellectual challenge of some 30 seconds to come up with the "name". Not one to speak ill of the dead and sure the deceased that this refers to will be looking down having a bit of a chuckle, it was the unanimous decision of the platoon to call the piglet "Wormald" after our esteemed CSM WO2 Rosslyn Claude Wormald because of his ample girth and nickname and this is the name that stuck with the little fellow during the time that he spent with the platoon. 
 
The next major decision was where the little chap was to be domiciled and that call was made by the members of the platoon in the next earth shattering 30 seconds. "Skip you bought the bloody thing now you live with it!”. In one minute we had a name and a home for the little fellow. What a considerate and concerned pack of bastards! It was decided the best place for him was my weapon pit and that's where the little guy spent most of his time when not being trained like a working dog. He used to follow me and others around the lines just like a dog and one of the amusing things that we would do is to position at the top of the lines near John McAloney's tent in the Assault Pioneers lines and the piglet would be held by Dogs Kearney or Blue Mulby at the bottom end of the road near the Sigs lines where we would call to him not by his name (that would be disrespectful to the CSM) but simply as you would any working dog "here pig, pig, pig, pig" where the pig would gallop up the road which some of you may recall had a slight incline and jump into the callers arms. The CSM would open the tent flap to survey the scene but equally quickly close, not having to witness the event. Perhaps it had something to do with the working dog, pig call? Members of the platoon would also put some webbing on the poor little bloke and walk around the lines, or the little chap would just lay in the sun under the rubber trees behind the tents. He really was well behaved and quiet domiciled. Forever grateful that during this period there was no serious activity of
*"The Binh Ba Ten Thousand"* or being subject to a mortar attack because the weapon pit was somewhat disheveled with old food residue and pig crap throughout.          
 
We were all still on operational activities so we drew up a roster to look after "Wormald” for the guys who were on rear details and he was fed copious volumes of scraps from the OR's Mess. He prospered far better with us than at his local village and he grew very fond of us as we did of him. The 7RAR guys who came over on the advance party and stayed with us were rather shocked and surprised as to our mascot which they immediately claimed as their own. I must confess, purchasing the piglet had absolutely nothing to do with 7RAR and the fact that their mascot was a pig. We didn’t know this at the time but when it came to hand over the operational duties to the 7RAR "Pigs" it was just too good an opportunity to miss.
 
The artistic creativity within our platoon never ceased to amaze. Bob "van Gogh" Kearney (it must have something to do with the ears) and some of the guys proceeded to paint the piglet with black and gold tiger stripes for the farewell dining in night and to hand over to 7RAR the next morning. I might add that Bob never forgave the CSM, based on some very questionable circumstantial evidence, in charging him over the "Thanksgiving Ham" incident where the remnants of this considerable feast were discovered in the garbage can outside Bob’s tent. Although all enjoyed the spoils, Platoon Commander included, Bob was not the culprit who absconded with the sizeable ham from the OR’s Mess cool room. It can now be revealed someone else in the platoon perpetrated this heinous crime (who many years later confessed this whilst laughing hysterically and uncontrollably on the floor at a Platoon reunion) aided and abetted by one of the OR mess cooks who used to dance and talk like Zorba the Greek and those of you close to Support Company will know exactly who this is/was. The entire piglet episodes, naming it, calling out to it and now painting it was in Bobs mind the “Piece de Resistance” to square up for that miscarriage of and in retrospect some poetic justice.
 
The night of the farewell dining in night was always going to be a wild affair. Let’s face it why should the officers tone down from the usual wild dining in nights where casualties were sustained, individuals found sleeping it off in the strangest of locations and let’s not forget the crazy and completely irresponsible call “over the top” of that rickety second world war poor excuse of a tent, where unsteady and in some cases ungainly officers roped up one side and freely fell down the other side to the ground. What a wonderful CO and PMC to ignore these crazy antics from a deranged bunch of young officers which at times included an equally deranged bunch of company commanders and the CO’s own executive team. Shit could you imagine it in today’s Army? Not likely!
 
The night of the dinner started in sombre enough mood. After all, there was extreme sadness at leaving, (what the hell were we on?) but that really was the feeling in a way, because it was the last time that this incredible bunch of officers, who had shared so much and lost a great part of its officer corps through battle casualties, would be dining together as the Tiger Battalion. That sadness however quickly dissipated to concentrate on the more mischievous plans for the evening. Max Carroll the Dining President that night and appropriately so, his guitar in tow and recollection of events on that night is vivid. Let’s face it how many Dining Presidents in the history of the Army in a war zone have had a pig invade the hallowed sanctum of an officers dining in night? Not many, and that's why this event now so many years later, is still remarkably clear. Managing to crawl out from under the table, as had been done at many similar such events mainly to have a quiet pee, (remember it was forbidden to leave the table unless permitted to do so) the pig was brought up to the back of the mess by members of the platoon and passed under the tent flap. Crawling back to the dining place under the tables trying to keep the little bugger quiet because he knew something was up, but quiet he remained until he was released under the table and that's when the commotion of commotions started. Not many in the mess knew about the pig except John McAloney. John was considered to be a bit of a goody good shoes back in Holsworthy until we were platoon neighbours at Nui Dat and was delighted and enlightened as to his true character on our R&R trip together to Hong Kong. Talk about a “silent assassin” but more of that later. As a matter of interest and pride, I was very privileged to be John’s best man for his marriage in Perth and still saddened to lose such a good man so young.  
 
The pig totally startled by the gathering of strangers ran about squealing, snorting, grunting, spluttering, oinking as pigs are wont to, which at first was met with surprise and a curious silence but when it was seen to be a little pig with tiger stripes that obviously had a fond affection and connection with the officers of 7RAR it sort of brought the house down. Once the little chap had completed his porcine performance we caught him and gave him back to the blokes to take back to the lines. But that was not the end of the evening. Some of you may not recall but on that evening Assault Pioneers and the "silent assassin" not to be outdone by Recce Platoon and its pig loving team, let off a bloody charge just to the outside of the officers mess which had some but in particular the new 7RAR officers somewhat perplexed and that’s putting it mildly. Typical bloody pioneers calculate what is required minutely and then bugger it, double it! Well they did a good job and I recall John McAloney absolutely pissing himself with laughter where he too had made his mark on that last dining in night.
 
Pig being presented to CO 7RAR LtCol Eric Smith BY CO 5RAR LtCol John WarrThe next day was a more sober affair where the pig was officially handed over to the CO 7RAR by our beloved CO who if you look at the photograph carefully, the expression on John Warr's face is a mischievous smile and a wicked glint in his eyes and Eric Smith's facial expression is one of "oh shit, what do I do with it". The photograph as matter of interest was taken by one of the Recce diggers Dennis Mills, who lives in Adelaide.
 
Anecdotal evidence suggests that CO 7 RAR was not totally impressed by the entire pig episode and even less so the subsequent CO of 7 RAR on the second tour who tried to expunge any reference to an association of pigs and 7RAR.  Very pleasingly “soldier power” prevailed and now the pig is a part of that Battalion's proud history and traditions as it should be and a small but eventful part of ours.
 
Sadly, we are not aware of what happened to "Wormald" after we left country but hopefully he had a good full life and sustained many. It is suggested he had a far better existence even in a war zone with us, than some of the poor creatures of today, farmed in the confines of a six by four cage inside a smelly shed with no sunlight or natural fresh fodder.

The pig in a small way was a poignant symbol of the culture, character, mischief and humorous community spirit of our Battalion but in particular during those last eventful days of the Tiger Battalion's first tour to Vietnam. Nobody can ever forget or take that away!


*Note: 'The Binh Ba Ten Thousand', was dubbed by Captain Bob Milligan, second in command of C Company, that whenever Intelligence suggested an attack on the base was likely, it was sufficient merely to pass the word, 'the Binh Ba Ten Thousand is on tonight', and the appropriate precautions would be taken.

*O'Neill R. J. (1968), Vietnam Task, Melbourne, Cassell Australia Ltd p70.
*
Paragraph seven: http://www.5rar.asn.au/ops/holsworthy.htm

 

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