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Tales from the Tiger


Australian Infantryman's combat badge
The Slouch Hat

© By Jack Bradd
C Company 2nd Tour
author: Jack Bradd

He was a big bloke for a gunner and as far as is known the only digger allowed to wear a Slouch Hat in the 5th Battalion in Vietnam, his name; Tex Nevins. He was at home in the bush with a total awareness of his surrounds, the essence of a skilled Infantryman, always had a smile ready even after lugging an M60 and ammo around all day.

Tex Nevins and author Jack Bradd Once when we were in the 'weeds' (jungle) it came time to retire his tattered Slouch Hat so he left it on a stump with a note written on it for the 'Nogs' (VC). It didn't take him long to train his new hat so after a few days it looked battered and worn and normal. I don't know where he got the hats from and didn't ask, he most probably had a trunk full of 'em.

He was proud of his ability with the M60, and he had every reason to do so, as the gun's only stoppages were to load a new belt. However on one occasion, in an assault, myself and the scout moved forward to firing positions so Tex could move up, but he didn't. I looked behind me to see him standing up swearing and kicking the cocking handle of the M60. It may have been the sight of a tall 'Uc dai loi' (Vietnames for Australian) in a Slouch Hat standing swearing which amazed the nogs or perhaps they were just rotten shots but he was able to walk away to the rear. An angry Platoon Commander, Lt. Ian Hosie, appeared wanting to know why my machine gunner was wandering around in the middle of an assault, he gave me the depth Section machine gun and we continued the assault. We found out that the feed mechanism of the gun had jammed while Tex was giving covering fire for me and the Scout.

Many retired Slouch Hats later we came to the last battle of 5 RAR (excellent coverage of this in "Year of the Tiger" by OC C Company Captain Dave Wilkins) I like the way Tex tells the story; 'In the Killer Group that night were myself, the Platoon Commander, (Lt. Ian Hosie), Jack (Corporal Jack Bradd) and Andy (Lance Corporal Andy MacDougal). We heard the nogs come into the Killing Ground then the Platoon Commander fired the Claymores (12) the ambush belonged to us and we hooked in!

40 years later Tex is telling me things he should have told me way back then, for example; he always hated the nickname 'Tex', when he came home he transferred to RAE (Royal Australian Engineers) and took the nickname 'Digger' he has been known by that name since. He also told me he wore the Slouch Hat in honour of the diggers of the 39th Battalion of Kokoda Track fame. He reckons that it's about time he was in Tiger Tales (5RAR's Newsletter) but we'll have to leave that to the Editor.