Memories of an Army Soldier, Alan Martin

At 90 years of age, Alan has a lifetime of memories. After leaving school, Alan went to work in a hosiery mill, working on the machinery that made women’s stockings. He enjoyed the hosiery business but one day in 1958, Alan went down to the army recruitment office with a group of friends and decided to enlist. He was 24 at the time.

“Before heading overseas, we were trained in ground tactics at a place called Canungra in Queensland. We had to learn to fire weapons such as guns and rifles,” said Alan.

“We flew out of Canungra to Singapore and were taken by truck to Malaya. I was in the 15th, or was it the 18th, Brigade - I can’t quite remember - but it was a unit belonging to the British army, even though we had our own leaders,” explained Alan.

“We were on the move quite a bit, travelling by jeep most of the time, and we stayed in camps - which was rough. Sometimes we had to go into the rubber plantations after the Indonesians. It was our brigade that sent the Indonesians back to their own Island - and I got a medal for this,” Alan said proudly.

When not on duty and in their spare time, Alan spoke about what life was like. “For fun, we did the usual things: played card games, checked out the town, and went to local bars. A few of the boys even married Malay girls, but they got into trouble for fraternising. Most of the boys came back to Australia with their wife but some wives didn’t cope and went back,” said Alan.

Alan’s next post was in Vietnam, at a place called Nui Dat. As a soldier in the army, Alan’s job was driving trucks. He was responsible for transporting ammunition, food, water, army gear, as well as soldiers.

Alan recalls a vivid memory of flying in a chopper in North Vietnam. “I didn’t much like it and it frightened the hell out of us actually. When we went into Fire Support Base Coral, we always went in by chopper, until we could go in by vehicle. It was a hectic time,” recalls Alan.

In another memory, Alan went by boat to Bangkok and on to a place called Ubon, in Thailand. This was a front-line base of the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. Alan said the Americans were training the Thais to fly planes and the Australians played a defensive support role.

“When we left Ubon, we returned to Malaya and were flown home - I was so happy,” remembered Alan fondly. “I spent a year and a half overseas but was only meant to do 12 months”. After arriving home in 1965, Alan spent time at the Randwick-based 42nd Amphibious Platoon, where he did all the pickups of supplies in and around Sydney.

Alan returned to Malaya for a short period, before being posted to Adelaide. He worked there in a unit that organised supplies for soldiers that were heading off to conflicts. But Adelaide for Alan has a special place in his heart.

“I met my wife in Adelaide - she was gorgeous. I fell for her and that was it. I swore I wouldn’t get married but she got me,” Alan remembers with a smile on his face. In 1972 they moved to Newcastle and were married at the RAAF Base Williamtown. “I was roughly about 38 years old. My wife already had 5 kids, and I became their Dad - I had 5 good ones,” said Alan proudly.

“My last role in the army was as a Quartermaster.

I stayed in this role until I took a discharge in 1979 and moved back to Sydney about 9 years ago”.

When asked what advice he has for people joining military service, Alan said, “I spent 21 years of both good and bad in the service. You make friends very easily. The friends you make stick with you - and you can always give them a call to chat”. Alan finished by saying, “I used to go into the ANZAC Dawn service but these days, I watch it on the TV”.

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