Lest we forget.
ANZAC fiction......maybe it'll make us think.
The muffled sound of voices brought us to a halt.
I squinted into the fog permeating the sodden marshland, my eyes straining to catch the slightest movement. It had taken eight and a half hours of discomfort to get here. My ears, screaming from my heartbeat were useless. The acrid taste of bile welled in my throat, fear beaded on my forehead.
Not noticing the cold wet weight of our gear as the crack of the kursz 7.62 cut short the whispered "contact", the squad exploded into action made second nature by the constant drilling that we cursed, Sound and direction became confused as the adrenaline coursed though my veins. The action actually seemed to slow down and the chatter of the Minimi sang alongside of the M16s as if in some demonic symphony interspersed with the bass drum of frags in the water, with the receding crescendo of barking 7.62 ushering in a quiet stillness.
It had only lasted seconds. It seemed like an eternity. From the fog came the chilling sounds of agony, the death throws of flesh and blood blanketed by the acoustic dullness of the swamp. Bile filled my mouth as my stomach contracted to expel, maybe somehow expunge the taste of my first contact.
The realisation brought with it, an uncomfortable warmth to my face and a sense of shame and regret, a fear of rebuke, a sense of no longer belonging, my magazine was full and my barrel, cold.........my right hand a bloodied mess. I can't remember exactly, but it was about then the pain set in.
Back at LUP waiting for extract, one of the lads examined the deformed slug imbedded in the grip of my M16, It had ricocheted off the reciever and tore through my hand before imbedding in the plastic grip of my weapon. "Ya a lucky ######" was all he said.
Extract never came.
The chooks informed us that the area was compromised, and we needed to sit tight in the LUP till things calmed down, calmed down, what the ###### did that mean.
I gazed at the mess of severed tendons and shattered bone that constituted my hand with the detachment that comes with morphine. The green gauze stained red, movement below my wrist, non existant, I could still feel the throb and tickle of the blood pumping from ruptured arteries, a good sign I suppose, But now the pain was in its box.
I went cold at the click of an M16 safety being eased off, then heard the unmistakable sounds of wading coming toward us, It had been nine hours since the contact. My mind raced at the thought that they had tracked us, but training took over , they were sweeping between the site of contact and the border. But if they maintained their course they'd walk right over the top of us.
Weapons were trained in the direction of the sound and we lay motionless in the feotid reeds, I pushed my injured hand into the water hoping to kill the blood smell and watched in horror as blood mixed in bright swirls of colour emulsified with the muddied swamp water, I wondered how long I could go on losing blood at this rate. I was already knocked up. How much of that was due to blood loss or morphine I didn't know.
I was fast becoming a liability to the team. It was still ten kliks to the border and almost seventy kliks to the safety zone rising out of the swamp into the dense rainforest covered central highlands.Got buckleys on foot.
I tightened the tounique until the blood flow completely stopped, a dangerous practice at any time let alone in the fermenting jungle and swamps of NG, I had thoughts of life without my right hand, gonna have to learn a new technique, I chuckled to myself, ######in Morf, what am I thinking.
"Dogs" came the soft intonement,My heart almost stopped as I held my breath, I senced the others doing the same, we lay there motionless, three M16s beading down on the approaching figures walking slowly out of the mist. The dog was leashed but alert not twenty metres from our position. The butt of the browning slippery in my left hand. I tried to control my breathing, but to ,me it sounded like a steam train, my heart pounded, I couldn't see them, I looked intently at No 1 as he covered the fire zone. He seemed relaxed, his breathing controlled, uniform, motionless.
They passed our postion and slowly the sounds were swallowed by the swamp once again. We stayed in our positions, still, quiet, as if paralized.
The tangoes had passed within feet of our LU, some ######ing dog, if it was mine I'd kick it's ass. the tension drained from my body and the intence throb in my arm made me reach for the tornique and release it to get the blood flowing again.
When we were sure the danger had passed we relaxed alittle.
Metholated spirits filled my nostrils in the darkness, damn thats strange, I contemplated that smell, trying to make head or tails of its origin when a sharp metalic clang made reach for the browning I had been clasping.
"###### they were back".
It was gone, in the half darkness my senses were confused, I turned to my right and pain stabbed through my left arm. Crash, clatter then blinding light, "Woah settle down mate." The voice was male but gentle, Hands restricted my movement forcefully but with care, I became aware of the clinically white surroundings and green clad figures about me trying to stop the bleeding where I had wrenched the IVs from my arm, I reached up to my face with my right hand and the realisation smashed home to me, Gone, my hands gone, my ######ing arms gone."######".
I collapased back onto the bed resistance evaporating, trying to collate my position.
"You're in hospital mate, you're safe, safe." the voice tried to reassure me.
"######" I gave in to the enevitable.
I'd been unconscious for 12 days. The squad had taken turns to carry me 20 kliks to an extract point, I was in RPH 28 hours later.
Gangreen had advanced to my elbow in a little over 18 hours. I had my arm removed to the elbow at Darwin hospital then transferred to RPH in Perth where in another op it was removed six inches below my shoulder where they figured they had stopped it. I was transferred to an Army convalencent Hospital in Queensland before being RTU'd and discharged medically unfit.
###### off? most definitely.
"Ya a lucky ######".