Anthony W. Pahl

Royal Australian Air Force Crest

NEW MEMORY FOR OLD BLOKES
(RAAF Vietnam Remembered)

A memory is unveiled today – a reminder and so much more
A plaque to honour we who served – as airmen in a war
All volunteers who heard the call – we answered with our heart
And were sent to serve in Vietnam – where each one did his part
On foreign soil we lived and toiled – in the air we made our stand
To support the quest for freedom – in a sad and ancient land

We who served recall the times – when sweat was mixed with tears
And regardless of the task at hand – we swallowed our worst fears
To ensure the job we had to do – in the air or on the ground
Was carried out with speed and care – and we revelled in the sound
Of aircraft engines and surging air – underscored with silent pride
In the knowledge that the job was done – all doubts were cast aside

Silently we returned back home – proud of what we’d done
Though soon we came to realise that – our youth had somehow gone
Replaced by hardened minds and hearts – we fought to find a peace
And over time we saw the light – and though they didn’t cease
Nightmares waned and in our lives – that knowledge and our pain
Was relegated to the cargo hold – and the clouds held no more rain

Wallaby, Albatross, Magpie, Bushranger – call-signs of birds of war
Flown and tended, maintained, remembered – by all who ever saw
The red kangaroo and blue roundel – the sign of Australia’s own
Squadrons that excelled in time of war – and rightly became renowned
And we, my friends, we served with pride – during a time that history shows
Was a pivotal point in a time of doubt – and in our hearts that honour flows

Sir Richard Williams in his plane – high up in heaven’s skies
Looks down on us this morning and – in satisfaction, sighs

Written to commemorate the unveiling of the RAAF Vietnam Plaque at the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, Victoria on Vietnam Veterans Day, 18th August 2008

Royal Australian Air Force Vietnam Veterans Association Crest

Author’s Note: In Australia, Vietnam Veterans Day falls on August 18th every year. That day was chosen because it was on that date in 1966 that Australians fought their biggest battle in Vietnam, the Battle of Long Tan, and overcame overwhelming enemy forces (150 Aussies against an estimated 2500+ enemy: seems like pretty reasonable odds for a bunch of Diggers) – and won the battle at the cost of 18 KIA and 24 WIA, with 245 enemy bodies recovered after the battle was over. Indications later suggested many more enemy bodies were removed from the battlefield by retreating enemy, either as KIA or WIA, or were blown to smithereens by our Artillery. 9 Squadron RAAF helicopters were involved in the battle, resupplying ammunition to the Aussies on the ground. The RAAF didn’t have helicopter gunships in country at that time, but the battle was instrumental in rectifying that deficiency.

Anthony W. Pahl: New Memories for Old Blokes

This year (2008), a plaque dedicated to Royal Australian Air Force Vietnam Veterans was unveiled on Vietnam Veterans Day at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, Victoria. I was asked to recite one of my poems during the Wreath Laying part of the ceremony. I agreed, but suggested a new and dedicated poem may be more appropriate than an existing one. This suggestion was met with enthusiasm so I got to work – the above poem is the result. I hope you enjoy it.

For information, Sir Richard Williams is known as the “Father of the Royal Australia Air Force”. The RAAF was formed in 1921 making it the second-oldest Air Force in the world (after Britain’s Royal Air Force). Prior to its formation, aircraft were, as in most countries, part of the Army (known in Australia as the Australian Flying Corps). Dicky Williams was the mover and shaker behind the RAAF’s formation. Without his efforts, the RAAF, as an individual entity, may never have been formed, at least not until many years later.

Anthony W. Pahl
August 28, 2008

IWVPA Double Tap Award for War Poetry: August 9, 2008
Awarded: August 9, 2008
Soaring Eagle Writing Award: September 3, 2008
Awarded: September 3, 2008