Glossary of Language used by Australians in Vietnam


glossary of language used by Australian Soldiers in Vietnam

For the uninitiated: The Australian soldier has always had a weird sense of humour. They have the art of making light of the most serious situations. They also have the habit of stamping a 'moniker' that is uniquely Australian. Here are some examples of what Aussie 'Diggers' may name an item, object or situation.
(See also 'Nicknames of 5RAR Personnel' on this site).

'AWOL' Commonly known as 'Absent Without Leave'; but really meant that young soldiers, wishing for a bit of time off, had forgotten to advise their superiors of their travel plans.
'BA MOI BA' A type of local beer brewed in villages -- almost undrinkable.
'BANGERS' Bangkok: (For Rest & Recreation Leave).


Swan Lager: A beer brewed in Perth, Western Australia - often suspected for the water having been sourced from the upper reaches of the Swan River - in an area populated by dairy farm runoff and swamps.
'BLOWFLY' Hygiene Representative: This man was responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of latrines and shower areas.


Last course of anti-malarial tablets. They went through the system as the name suggests.
'BOOZER'  A place in which to purchase alcohol in each company area. ( A Company was approximately 110 men). The express purpose of this facility was to get as full as possible, as quickly as possible.
'BREW'  A drink of tea or coffee, made with muddy or chlorinated water.
'BUKU'  A word derived from French 'beaucoup', meaning plenty. The Vietnamese often used this term and it was adopted by the Yanks, Kiwis and Aussies.
'BUSHMAN SCOUT'  Not a type of Jeep. This was a 'local', whose role was described in his title.
'CHICKEN MAN'  A morning program on Armed Forces Radio Vietnam.
(Click HERE for a sample).
'CSM'  The Company Sergeant Major: A warm, compassionate, caring person, often misunderstood by young soldiers, especially when placed on a 'Fizzer' (see below).

Not a town west of Dubbo in outback New South Wales. It was an anti-malarial pill, taken twice daily. (See also Paludrine).

'DAT DO DOGS'  Dat Do was a nearby village, never frequented by Aussie troops. Reinforcements were told upon arrival in the unit that there were regular dog races, in an attempt to advise them that non-existent entertainment was available.
'DEAD HORSE'  Sauce: Also known as ketchup. Used as a flavouring agent or to camouflage the taste of various meals.

Vietnamese for "go away", "get out", or "piss off".

'DUSTOFF' acronym for: “Dedicated Unhesitating Services To Our Fighting Forces”.
'EATING IRONS'  Knife/Fork/Spoon Set. Shorter and dirtier than those at home.
'FANG' Loves a feed
'FARTER'  The soldier's bed: usually a narrow pneumatic mattress, with lightweight nylon-type blanket or "silk". The inflated mattress would sometimes make a sound when you turned over, thereby giving rise to the name.

A charge sheet: These were for the express purpose of ensuring that young soldiers knew who was running the show.

'FURPHY'  Not to be confused with the early-style water carts of Australia. A real furphy was a rumour which spread like wildfire within the ranks.
'GETTERS' Thongs/Sandals.

A soft drink.

'GHENGIS'  Lt. Col Colin Khan DSO, commanding officer during the Battalion's second tour.
'GINGER BEERS' Army Engineers.

Navy talk for 'pissaphone' (see below).



Also known as Hepatitis Rolls. These were meat and salad-filled bread rolls purchased from street stalls in Vung Tau. Their effect on the body is evidenced by their name.


A small collapsible metal frame designed to hold a cup or food container for heating for the soldier's individual use. A hexamine tablet was placed in the base, and ignited. If no hexamine was available, a small piece of plastic explosive did the same job.



VC foot-ware made from old tyres; they had a distinctive tread, recognisable in the dirt.

'HONKERS' Hong Kong (For Rest & Recreation Leave).

Another term for free accommodation -- four men in base camps, one man in field situations. The description sounds good, but in reality it was a four-man leaky tent, surrounded by sandbags.

'HOMER' Return to Australia: (Usually after being wounded).
"THE J" Jungle.
'JACK RATIONS' A supplementary food supply, purchased by the individual soldier, for his personal survival.
'JOOBIE JUICE' A name given to the awful cordial powder supplied by the USA to our troops in an attempt to flavour our water. Varieties included raspberry, lime and grape. I knew of one digger, the late David Fazackerley, who mixed the grape cordial with Scotch. He shared his brew with nobody, because nobody dared help him drink it!

A three-wheeled motor scooter fitted with an enclosed seating area over the rear wheels. Used as taxi cabs in Vung Tau. The carrying capacity of these machines was usually dictated by the amount of soldiers in any group, and the amount of lubrication that these soldiers may have consumed. Extra passengers have been known to have been carried on the roof of the passenger area.


Our canvas homes. (See Hootchie, above).


Left Out Of Battle??? (See POGO below).

'MOB 3'

A soldier's movement or transfer order.

'MEATHEADS' Our military police friends. Lovely people really. When they found young soldiers after curfew in Vung Tau, they would give them a lift back to base, and even  accommodate them overnight. They were very security conscious ... even their walls had bars.

The Australian Government's recognition of young men growing up in the '60s, and granting them to a free overseas trip.

'NINE MILE SNIPERS' Artillery Personnel.
'NUMBER 10!'  A term used by Vietnamese Nationals to express their feelings of Australian troops, when they were not given gifts. When gifts were provided, Aussie soldiers were suddenly NUMBER 1!
'PADDY FIELD' An open rice field: These were known to raise the sweat of even the coolest soldier - patrolling across these, completely open, no protection; frightening. Also could be a name for a soldier of Irish heritage

Not to be confused with the 1960's TV show Paladin, starring Richard Boone. This was an anti-malarial drug, taken once daily.

'PISSAPHONE' A urinal: fashioned by the use of a semi-circular drum dug into the ground, allowing troops to urinate in open spaces within base camps. Specifically designed for Vietnam Troops.

Personnel On Garrison Operations? In any case, those assigned this name were not at the 'sharp end'.


Weapons used by our military police friends.


A means of cleaning the interior of a weapon's barrel / a very skinny person.


Our food supply, courtesy of the USA. Included delicacies such as dog biscuits.




Regimental Sergeant Major
Just like the CSM (see above) only much bigger!


Singapore: (Rest & Recreation Leave).

SCHMICK. Hard to explain how the brain operated, but it worked this way: It takes a million Schmicks to make half a Schmoo. It takes a million Schmoos to make half a clue. And some people wouldn't have a Schmick. Loosely translated, one could hear through the ranks: "So and so wouldn't have a schmick".

A patrol.


Part of the leisure resort at Vung Tau. To gain entry, all a soldier had to do was the wrong thing, and be sentenced to a period of time filling sandbags and then emptying them. He got to do this every day. Better than any fitness camp.

'TRUE BLUE' Loyal friend, good mate.

Armoured Corps Personnel.

'TV SHOW' Smile -- you're on Candid Claymore!
'UC DAI LOI' Vietnamese for "Australian".

Victorian Bitter, also known as 'vomit bomb', 'Vitamin B', 'Vietnamese beer' etc. Probably better than Swan Lager.

'VUNG TAU FERRY' HMAS Sydney: This ship, an aircraft carrier which had been converted to carry troops, was remodelled on the cork-in-the-ocean principle. The ship behaved in the same way when sailing to and from Vietnam.
'VUNGERS' The city of Vung Tau: Used by Aussie soldiers for 'Rest & convalescence'.
'WAKEY' Last sleep before return to Australia.

A system where young soldiers, surprised to learn of their impending fatherhood, were able to take leave to return to Australia for matrimony, and to get to meet the new in-laws.


South Vietnamese police: dressed in white, vocal on the whistle and with a reputation for shooting first and asking questions later. Young soldiers tended to respect these people.

'WINGY' Lt. Col John Warr, commanding officer of the Battalion during its first tour. Permanently bent arm due to being wounded during the Korean War.

Similar to a suburban fence, identifying boundaries, but also allowing close contact with some neighbours.


A western/cowboy paperback book.

'YIPPEE SHOOT' An unauthorized, illegal,  discharge of multiple weapons into the bush.

Beer from Queensland, Australia - some blokes couldn't spell Queensland, hence the easier name.