Veteran speaks at Cleve Probus

THANKS: Vale Gale moved a vote of thanks for guest speaker Robert McFarlane.
THANKS: Vale Gale moved a vote of thanks for guest speaker Robert McFarlane.

At the April meeting of Cleve Probus Club, Kath Travers introduced Vietnam War veteran Robert McFarlane.

Robert is involved with the RSL in Cowell and preserving local history and records of those who served Australia in wars overseas.

There are two Vietnam veterans still living in Cowell.

For many years Robert felt he was unable to speak about his experiences in Vietnam, the first time being at his mother's funeral.

There was conscription and all eighteen-year-olds had to register.

Robert's number came up and on passing his medical soon found himself in training at Puckapunyal, then Singleton New South Wales.

It was the shortest period of intense training that a battalion had ever been given before being sent to war.

They were trained to think and act as a team.

They carried about sixty kilograms on their backs, including five days of food.

Vietnam smelt of rotting humanity and vegetation.

From January 1 to April 1, they were out in scrub living like animals during battles with the North Vietnamese.

Two soldiers from their battalion lost their lives during that period.

Machine guns dropped by helicopter were ready to fire in thirty minutes.

A machine gun called the 'Pig Shooter' held 600 rounds of bullets.

Most of their supplies came by helicopter and eagerly awaited mail from home came by boat.

After nine months of terror particularly at night the soldiers went to Taiwan for a seven day break.

In Taiwan they watched television to see man landing on the moon for the first time.

Here Robert met up with his younger brother Stephen, Chief Petty Officer on the ship 'Sydney'.

Sadly Stephen died of cancer aged 34.

Slides illustrated the sacrifices and hardships endured by these young men in serving their country.

A vote of thanks was moved by Val Gale and the meeting closed with the Probus Song.